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Newspapers today: The Times, Independent, FT, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, Express, Herald 270116

The Times

Bags of swank in record year for Jimmy Choo: Jimmy Choo, the luxury shoe maker best known for its ultra-high heels, has enjoyed a record year after total revenues rose 15% to £364 million.

Verizon eyes $300 billion Charter merger to create telecoms monster: Verizon and Charter Communications are exploring a near-$300 billion merger to create the largest telecommunications company in the world, it emerged.

Hammond defers sale of stake in RBS: Taxpayers may not recover more of their money from Royal Bank of Scotland for several years and only once it has shown that it is “firmly in recovery mode”, the Chancellor said.

Retail sales index has biggest ever fall: British retail sales fell unexpectedly this month, driven by a sharp drop among grocers who suffered their fastest decline since August 2004, according to the CBI’s monthly survey.

TSB likes the big picture despite tough year ahead: TSB will suffer a fall in profit this year owing to a double whammy of extra IT costs and having to hand back a book of mortgages to Lloyds but it is expected to bounce back next year.

Johnson & Johnson swallows Actelion’s medicine for $30 billion: The world’s largest healthcare company has struck a $30 billion deal to buy one of Europe’s most coveted biotech companies after weeks of complex negotiations.

Sky in broadband TV offer after profits fall: Sky is to offer all its television channels over broadband, in addition to satellite dishes, as it continues a long-term drive towards making its content available anytime, anywhere, on all platforms.

Shell cannot be sued in Britain over Nigeria oil spill, judge rules: Royal Dutch Shell cannot be sued in the U.K. over oil spills from its pipelines in Nigeria, a High Court judge has ruled in a crucial test case for the energy group and other multinationals.

Ford pays $200 million penalty for pulling out of Mexico plant: Ford took a $200 million hit to its finances by cancelling a new plant in Mexico amid demands from President Trump to build more cars in the U.S.

Crackdown on gamblers puts dent in Rank casino profits: A government crackdown on money laundering and problem gambling contributed to a fall in half-year profits at the company behind Grosvenor Casinos and Mecca Bingo.

Shares down at Daily Mail publisher: Shares in Daily Mail and General Trust lost more than 8% of their value after the media group cut the outlook for its information division.

Bishop tells mining group to do more for its workers: Lonmin shares were hammered as the London-quoted platinum miner revealed a “disappointing” start to 2017 and was accused of failing the families of 34 miners who were killed in the Marikana massacre in 2012.

HS2 recruits permanent Boss from U.S. advisers: The relationship between High Speed Two and its key adviser, the U.S. consultancy CH2 million Hill, has become even closer after HS2 replaced its interim acting Chief Executive, the CH2 million Director Roy Hill, with a permanent Boss, Mark Thurston, recruited from CH2M.

Fall in copper production takes shine off Anglo American: Anglo American reported a sharp production fall at its huge Los Bronces copper mine in Chile at the end of last year offsetting an overall increase in mineral output across its mines.

The Independent

Unilever Boss says Britons should ‘get used to’ price rises: The Chief Executive of Unilever, the consumer goods giant at the centre of Marmitegate, said Britain should “get used to” price rises triggered by a slump in the pound after the Brexit vote.

Barclays to keep global HQ in London no matter outcome of Brexit: Barclays has reiterated that it will keep its global headquarters in London even after the U.K. leaves the EU, in response to media reports that it was planning on establishing a European headquarters in Dublin.

Chicken prices soar due to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine: When Ukraine first accused Russia of invading Crimea just under three years ago, few were thinking of the effect on chicken prices.

Mortgage approvals hit nine-month high in December: Approvals for house purchases hit a nine-month high in December, according to the latest data from the British Bankers’ Association, suggesting that the national housing market is still holding up despite the Brexit vote last summer.

Pound sterling slips off six-week high: The pound slipped off a six-week high against the dollar on Thursday, with investors displaying caution following several sessions of gains for the currency.

After Marmitegate shares in Unilever are falling again: Shares in Unilever fell on Thursday morning after the consumer good giant at the centre of Marmitegate warned that tough market conditions are “likely to continue” next year as it revealed lower than expected results on Thursday.

Trump’s tipped ambassador to the EU says the euro could collapse: U.S. President Donald Trump’s likely pick for ambassador to the European Union has said that the single currency “could collapse” in the next year and a half.

Credit Suisse considers Dublin expansion as Brexit looms: Credit Suisse is exploring options for expanding in Dublin, as the U.K. moves closer to exiting the European Union, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Financial Times

Eike Batista sought in Brazil corruption probe: Brazilian police are seeking the arrest on suspicion of involvement in corruption of Eike Batista, the former oil magnate who rode the commodities boom to become the country’s richest man before his empire collapsed a few years ago.

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Former Och-Ziff London partner charged by SEC: Two former Och-Ziff Executives have been charged with directing a scheme to win the hedge fund business in at least five African countries by paying “tens of millions of dollars” in bribes to government officials.

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China’s Ant Financial buys MoneyGram for $880 million: Ant Financial, the digital payments arm of Chinese ecommerce group Alibaba, has underlined its global ambitions with the purchase of the U.S.-listed money transfer service MoneyGram International.

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St James’s Place to publish bond and pension charges online: St James’s Place, the FTSE 100-listed wealth manager, is to publish for the first time its bond and pension charges following increased scrutiny by consumer groups over industry fees.

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Regulator seeks EU access for U.K. banks abiding by global rules: The head of one of the City of London’s main regulators has suggested to a German audience that financial firms that conform to “global standards” should be allowed access to the EU single market after Brexit.

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Scrutiny of billions of pounds of defence projects scaled back: Defence projects costing billions of pounds will no longer receive independent in-depth scrutiny by Britain’s spending watchdog, after officials opted to leave the Ministry of Defence to assess its own annual performance.

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VW Executive brought in to clean up after emissions scandal quits: Volkswagen’s Head of Compliance is stepping down after just one year in the job in a setback to hopes that she would help clean up the culture at the carmaker.

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Sadoun appointment ends Lévy era at Publicis: Maurice Lévy, one of the longest-standing Chief Executives in France, will be replaced as Chairman and Chief Executive of Publicis Groupe by the advertising giant’s creative Chief, Arthur Sadoun, as shifts in consumer behaviour and new technology change the way the big agency groups operate.

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Comcast pulls in first full-year gain in TV customers in a decade: Comcast defied industry fears of viewers ditching cable services in favour of online streaming, reporting its first full-year gain in television customers in a decade.

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EU states rebuff scheme to extend tariffs on Chinese solar panels: EU member states have rejected a plan to extend tariffs on Chinese solar panels, delivering a bloody nose to Brussels as it seeks to sharpen penalties against Beijing for dumping products on European markets.

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LVMH shrugs off sector woe with record €37.6 billion full-year sales: A strong fourth quarter, with 9% organic sales growth, helped LVMH post record revenue of €37.6 billion in 2016 despite much of the luxury goods sector struggling with slower growth.

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Swiss watch exports in sharpest fall since financial crisis: Swiss watch exports fell 9.9% last year, their sharpest drop since the financial crisis, as big markets such as Hong Kong and the U.S. continued to shrink.

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BT to bring forward auditor review in wake of Italian scandal: BT is to bring forward a review of its auditors in the wake of a damaging accounting scandal in Italy that will end a relationship with PwC that dates back more than 30 years.

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Ericsson cuts dividend as new Chief Executive resets strategy: Ericsson has cut its dividend by three-quarters in a move to shore up its balance sheet and reset the strategy of the Swedish telecoms group after a sharp drop in sales.

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Lex:

Blackstone: champagne radicals: Blackstone’s accounting earnings for the year — management and performance fees — jumped a tenth to $2.4 billion. Cash earnings, which reflect sales of assets, fell 43% to $2.1 billion. But that decline mostly reflected mammoth asset sales from the year before. For the year, the company paid a dividend of $1.52 per share. Even after a 30% post-election rally, the shares yield 5%.

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Ericsson: smouldering platform: Shares in Ericsson rose as much as 7% at the opening Thursday as the telecoms equipment maker reported fourth-quarter sales higher than forecasts. By the close that had eased to 3.7%. That is fair; the results represent a reasonable start by a new Chief Executive, but fall far short of a convincing recovery plan.

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Royal Bank of Scotland: audacity of hope: Investors in the Royal Bank of Scotland, by now familiar with seemingly unwinnable struggles, hope they can follow suit and turn a profit. The bank’s latest $3.8 billion provision, announced on Thursday, only provides more grounds for scepticism. The provision brings the total set aside to settle the pre-crisis mis-selling of U.S. mortgages to £6.7 billion ($8.3 billion).

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Lombard:

Diageo measures up as spirits rise in the U.S.: Diageo’s workers think it should be trebles all around. Straight after the world’s largest producer of spirits reported a 28% rise in half-year operating profit, to £2.1 billion, the GMB union leaned across the bar and demanded that the company “recognise and reward workers” for “soaring” results.

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Sky’s no-limit poker: One of Sky Sports’ more esoteric offerings in recent times has been the Poker Chip Stack Challenge. This TV treat featured the athletic spectacle of retired footballers in leisurewear trying to build the tallest pile of gambling chips possible in 30 seconds, using only one hand. You really want to watch it now, don’t you? Sky Chief Executive Jeremy Darroch may want to, as well — for tips on keeping hold of one’s cash in a high-stakes game of bluff. In March, he must decide how much to bid for rights to a more popular footballing event: the Uefa Champions League. On Thursday, though, he revealed what bidding £4.2 billion for three years of English Premier League coverage has done to Sky’s coffers. With the contract under way, £314 million of the cost fell into the second half of 2016, cutting Sky’s operating profit in the period to £679 million, a fall of £65 million year on year.

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The Daily Telegraph

Fears over BT debt pile as ratings agency warns of negative outlook in wake of accounting scandal: BT is at risk of having its credit rating cut over fears that the heavy blow to profits from its accounting scandal in Italy and a slump in big contracts will slow effort to reduce its debt pile.

Alphabet shares fade as Google phone costs drag on profits: Google’s parent company Alphabet posted lower-than-expected profits tonight as the high cost of launching its new Pixel phone and investing in cloud services took the shine off a leap in advertising income.

Tata U.K. Steel’s pension fund to be spun off to separate it from business: Tata Steel U.K.’s pension fund is set to be spun off in a move that will ring-fence the business from future financial burdens flowing from the retirement scheme.

Chancellor signals no early exit from RBS as bank sets aside £3.1 billion for U.S. fine: Philip Hammond has signalled that the Government is likely to hold on to its stake in Royal Bank of Scotland until at least the end of the decade, as the bank announced it would take a $3.8 billion (£3.1 billion) provision for mis-selling toxic mortgage-backed securities in the U.S. in the run-up to the financial crisis.

Co-op Bank warns it will miss capital target: Troubled Co-operative Bank has warned that it will miss the capital targets set out by City regulators in yet another sign the lender is struggling to recover from its near collapse in 2013.

Sage considers sale of U.K. payments business: Sage is considering putting its payments business in the U.K. up for sale as the FTSE 100 software group reviews its future.

French Connection begins search for new board members in response to activist pressure: French Connection has begun hunting for replacements for two of its non-Executive Directors following intense pressure from activist investors at Gatemore, which has ramped up its public campaign against the company.

Barclays prepares to expand Dublin office after Brexit: Barclays is preparing to boost its operations in Dublin and use the Irish capital as its main base in the European Union if British banks are forced to relocate their EU businesses because of Brexit.

Imperial backs down from shareholder battle over £8.5 million Executive payout: Tobacco giant Imperial Brands has backed down in the face of a rising shareholder rebellion over plans to hand its top Bosses a potential multimillion pound pay hike.

The Questor Column:

This commodities trust is one to take a punt on if you believe in Trump’s ‘reflation’: At the moment, the investment trend on everyone’s mind is the theory that Donald Trump’s election as U.S. President will lead to dramatic changes in the economy and the investment landscape. But one sector that should benefit not just from a renewal of economic animal spirits in general but specifically from Mr. Trump’s infrastructure boost is commodities. Among investment trusts that operate in this sector, the most attractive to Questor is BlackRock World Mining. The trust, managed by Evy Hambro and Olivia Markham, is one of just 17 quoted funds to make it into the model investment trust portfolio of JP Morgan Cazenove, the stockbroker. One cloud on the horizon is that the trust is highly likely to announce a significant cut to its dividend. The interim payment was cut by 45% and Numis speculated that investors could receive a total of 13p for the year, down from 21p the previous year, which would still be equivalent to a yield of 3.5% at ‘s share price. But the trust’s current discount of 14.3% is perhaps its biggest attraction. The portfolio’s annual cost, as measured by the total expense ratio, is 1.21%, which is on the high side but not unreasonable for a specialist fund of this nature. Questor says ‘Speculative Buy’.

The Guardian

Hermes facing legal challenge from its self-employed workers: Hermes, the courier company that delivers parcels for John Lewis and Next, is facing a legal claim from workers who believe they are wrongly classed as self-employed, according to the Labour MP Frank Field.

Brexit’s mixed bag: good for scotch, bad for washing machines: The contrasting impact of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union on business was underlined when some of the world’s largest companies warned it had hiked food prices and lowered demand for household appliances on one hand but raised overseas profits for British companies on the other.

Brexit economy: weak pound stokes inflation as jobs market cools: The pressure on the pound from Britain’s vote to leave the EU is stoking inflation, denting household finances and putting a brake on spending, according to a Guardian analysis.

Car firms tell May post-Brexit tariffs are ‘red line’ issue that threatens jobs: The car industry has told Theresa May that the introduction of tariffs after Britain leaves the EU is a “red line” issue that would lead to a fall in sales and potentially result in job losses.

Daily Mail

Card Factory Boss leaves just as sales start to grow with firm confident profits will be ahead of expectations: Strong trading over Christmas helped boost Card Factory. The greeting card and gift maker was among the biggest risers on the FTSE 350 after it indicated that the drop off in business it suffered earlier in the year had passed.

Beefeater restaurants are a drag but Costa Coffee serves up success for Whitbread: The group, which includes Premier Inn, said sales at its Beefeater restaurants fell 1.5% in the 13 weeks to December 1.

Haynes revs up for bigger profit thanks to booming demand for car, motorcycle and novelty manuals: Booming demand for car and motorcycle manuals and a growing interest in online products boosted sales for publisher Haynes. The company revealed rising sales in the six months to December, thanks to growing popularity of its key brands. Sales in the six months to November 30 increased by 15% to £14million – up from £12.2million the year before.

Kevin O’Byrne, 52 Chief financial officer, Sainsbury’s handed £300k in shares: The new finance Boss of J Sainsbury has been given more than £300,000 in shares to make up for money he lost leaving Poundland.

Fuller, Smith and Turner report robust Christmas trading at their pubs and hotels: Fuller, Smith and Turner reported robust trading over Christmas, driven by growth at its managed pubs and hotels arm.

Daily Express

German car giant loses €100million contract: A mystery firm has pulled out of a €100million deal with a German car supplier, after new President Donald Trump warned he would punish companies that outsourced jobs from America.

Is your local cashpoint going to be boarded up? Row means half are set to be axed: Tens of thousands of free-to-use cash machines could be axed across Britain amid an ongoing row between banks and providers. As many as half of the 70,000 ATMs covered by the U.K.’s LINK network could disappear if a dispute over fees isn’t resolved.

George Soros bets against ING bank accidentally leaked by bungling Dutch regulator: Billionaire investor George Soros has had details of his bets against banks mistakenly revealed by the Dutch regulator.

U.K. economy is not slowing down: GDP grows by 0.6% – faster than before Brexit vote: Britain’s economy grew faster in the six months after the Brexit vote, than the six months before the referendum, official data revealed.

The Scottish Herald

Bowleven insists it is making progress in Cameroon: Bowleven has said it is making progress in Cameroon days after a rebel investor demanded a boardroom cull and a change of strategy at the firm.

Shares lift for RBS after fine provision: Shares in Royal Bank of Scotland received a boost amid growing hopes the fine to be imposed on the state-owned lender for mis-selling U.S. mortgage-backed securities will not be as high as initially feared.

New name for SECC as it aims for expansion: The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre has been renamed the Scottish Event Campus as part of a wider strategy that includes a £100 million expansion of exhibition space.

Standard Life’s European pensions Chief to stand down: Standard Life has said Paul Matthews, Chief Executive of its U.K. and Europe pensions and savings business, is set to retire from the firm after 28 years with the business. Mr. Matthews will stand down as an Executive Director on March 1, and leave the company on August 31.

The Scotsman

Spirits giant Diageo in strong sales and profits rise: Diageo, Scotland’s biggest Scotch whisky company, cheered the City with a much better interim trading performance, sending its shares up 4%.

£700k lift for industrial biotech: A string of Scottish businesses and universities and are set for a boost after the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) earmarked more than £700,000 of investment for micro-enterprises specialising in industrial biotech.

Fife pushes ahead with universal basic income plan: A former mining village in Fife is to host a meeting of international experts and politicians to discuss a radical alternative to the present welfare system.

Atlantis inks French deal to develop wind technology: Atlantis Resources, the tidal energy company behind the ground-breaking MeyGen project in the Pentland Firth, has moved a step closer to developing a large-scale floating wind farm after joining forces with a French engineering firm.

Positive data unable to stop Footsie falling: The FTSE 100 Index and the pound edged down after failing to receive a boost from robust economic data showing that Britain has yet to suffer a slowdown in the wake of the Brexit vote.

City A.M.

China’s debt mountain is unlikely to spoil its New Year: As China prepares to ring in the year of the Fire Rooster this weekend, its central bank has ordered lenders to strictly control the amount of loans issued in the first quarter of 2017 – an effort to cut the country’s ballooning levels of debt.

U.S. President Donald Trump says he’ll negotiate trade deal with the U.K. himself: U.S. President Donald Trump says he will personally discuss the framework for a post-Brexit trade deal with Prime Minister Theresa May, having failed to appoint a commerce secretary since moving into the White House.

Cinema chain Vue plans £6.6 million refurbishment of Leicester Square flagship: Cinema company Vue Entertainment is planning a £6.6 million refurbishment of its Leicester Square flagship.

EU Robin Hood financial transactions tax is “within reach” if politicians can agree says diplomat: A financial transactions tax – also known as a Robin Hood tax – on trades is “within reach” according to the EU’s commissioner on tax, which could represent a barrier to the U.K.’s post-Brexit trade deal with the bloc.

Cezanne paints picture of success with Glasgow expansion: Southwark-based Cezanne HR has announced plans to open a new office in Glasgow, with the expansion following the company’s most successful year to date. It now has a record number of new customers and an increased global presence.

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