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Newspapers: The Times, Independent, FT, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, Express, Herald 040118

The Times

Profit’s no barrel of laughs: It was a case of a glass half-empty for a supplier of whisky and bourbon barrels yesterday. Despite announcing a rise in turnover, Speyside Cooperage said that profits were down by 19%.

Legal challenge could halt Niki’s €20 million sale to IAG: The sale of Niki to the owner of British Airways could falter today if a court in Berlin decides to reverse the budget airline’s insolvency filing.

Investigation into Tesco ‘superficial and wrong’: The Serious Fraud Office has been accused of ignoring and “grossly misrepresenting” evidence and failing to carry out a proper investigation of an alleged fraud at Tesco, the supermarket group.

Shell ready to run with new ‘Fitbit for your car’ monitor: Royal Dutch Shell aims to install Fitbit-type monitors in a million cars this year as part of an expansion of its consumer-facing oil products business.

German jobless at new low despite vote doubt: Unemployment in Germany dipped to a record low of 5.5% in December, despite political paralysis in Berlin. The headline rate was the same as in November, but the jobless total dropped by 29,000 to 2.442 million, the lowest since German reunification in 1990.

Float adviser STJ finds profits are sinking: The reluctance of businesses to pay for external advice as they decide whether or not to plunge into the public markets was spelt out on the bottom line of one of the City’s leading independent flotation advisory firms yesterday.

The Independent

U.K. minimum wage: Steep increases could kickstart workplace automation revolution: Steep increases in U.K. minimum wage could kickstart an automation revolution in the workplace, with potentially radical consequences for those currently working as cashiers and receptionists among other jobs, according to new research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Poundland’s owner secures loan to reduce dependence on struggling Steinhoff: Poundland’s European owner has secured a £180 million loan from a U.S. hedge fund to reduce dependence on its troubled South African parent Steinhoff and reassure spooked suppliers.

Petrobras agrees to pay $3 billion to settle U.S. lawsuit over corruption scandal: Brazil’s state-run oil company, Petrobras Brasileiro, said it will pay $2.95 billion (£2.2 billion) to settle a U.S. lawsuit brought by investors who claim they lost money due to a massive corruption scandal that hit the energy giant’s shares.

John Lewis reports record-breaking Christmas week sales: John Lewis revealed record-breaking sales during the week running up to Christmas. The department store group, which includes Waitrose supermarkets, saw sales jump 4% in the week to 23 December compared to the same period a year earlier.

Refresco-Cott soft drinks merger faces CMA investigation: The competition watchdog is to investigate the $1.25 billion (£935 million) merger between soft drinks firms Refresco and Cott after warning that shoppers could face higher prices as a result of the deal.

Financial Times

Scana accepts $14.6 billion bid after nuclear project failure: Scana, the South Carolina utility that last year abandoned its plan to build two of the first new commercial nuclear reactors in the U.S. for 40 years, has accepted an all-share takeover offer from Dominion Energy valued at $14.6 billion including debt.

Gazprom gas exports to Europe rise 8% to new record: Russia’s gas exports to Europe rose 8.1% last year to a record level of 193.9 billion cubic metres (bcm), the company’s head said on Wednesday, as the world’s largest gas producer continued to increase sales despite rising competition from LNG and other sources.

American Express sees $2.4 billion hit from U.S. tax legislation: Credit card company American Express on Wednesday said changes to the U.S. tax law would reduce its fourth quarter earnings by $2.4 billion and drive it to a quarterly loss.

Former Och-Ziff Executive faces criminal fraud charges: The former European head of the hedge fund Och-Ziff, Michael Cohen, is facing criminal charges of fraud in the U.S. in connection with investments in the African mining sector.

Ashmore to absorb costs of research under Mifid II: Ashmore, the only major asset manager that had not publicly announced how it will pay for investment research under sweeping rules that came into force today, has finally made a decision.

Allergan to cut more than 1,000 jobs as it seeks to lower costs: Botox maker Allergan said on Wednesday that it would cut more than 1,000 jobs as it looks to trim costs while readying for the loss of exclusivity for one of its top-selling treatments.

U.S. car industry braces for second year of decline: The U.S. car industry is predicting a second year of contraction in 2018, on the heels of a 2017 that finished with the first annual sales decline since the financial crisis.

South Korean shipbuilders surge on turnround hopes: Shares of South Korean shipbuilders surged on Wednesday on high expectations for a fully fledged recovery in the global shipbuilding industry this year amid increasing orders and rising ship prices.

Declining sales leave Rite Aid shares woozy: Shares of U.S. drug-store chain Rite Aid dropped in after-hours trading on Wednesday after it reported a year-over-year decline in revenue thanks in part to lower pharmacy-services sales.

Meituan-Dianping presses starting button on ride-sharing app: Chinese consumer app Meituan-Dianping has begun recruiting users for its new ride-sharing platform as it gears up to challenge Didi Chuxing, the world’s largest ride-hailing company which has seen off competitors such as Uber.

Nintendo jumps on report Pokemon Go to launch in China: Nintendo jumped as much as 4.5% on Thursday following a report from the Financial Times that Pokémon Go developer Niantic has struck a deal to launch the game in China.

Intel responds to reports of processor flaw: Intel on Wednesday responded to reports of a design flaw in some of its processor chips, saying that claims that these are “unique” to its products are incorrect and that it had planned to disclose the issue next week.

Didi takeover of Brazil’s 99 piles pressure on Uber: Didi Chuxing, the Chinese car-booking group, said on Wednesday that it has acquired 99, the Brazilian app, potentially providing more firepower for a rival to Uber in one of the world’s largest markets.

France gears up for big privatisation drive: The coming year is set to be a busy one for France’s state-owned companies as President Emmanuel Macron paves the way for the first major government sell-off since he took office.

Lex:

Intel: cashed in his chips: As cyber security issues go, a flaw that allows hackers to access most servers and PCs on the planet sold in the last decade is rather serious. It emerged on Wednesday that Intel and other chipmakers were vulnerable. Software patches are being issued but they are not perfect solutions, especially since they can slow down machines.

Tesla: whoosh: Exciting news for the vanishingly small number of Tesla Model 3 owners: your car now has automatic windscreen wipers. But the electric carmaker once again demonstrated its most impressive feature on Wednesday evening: it is bulletproof.

Dominion/Scana: southern discomfort: Christmas will come late in corporate America. In the wake of the sharp reduction in the U.S. corporate tax rate, companies such as AT&T and Comcast promised $1,000.00 bonuses to workers. They reckoned no one would notice that these one-time payouts were trifling compared to the companies’ permanently lower tax bills.

Lombard:

City reprieve on Mifid rules more practical than farcical: At 7am on Wednesday 03 January — the very moment that the new EU rules came into force — ICE Futures Europe and the London Metal Exchange were granted a further two and half years by the Financial Conduct Authority to comply with some of them. It was not so much a last-minute reprieve as a first-minute one. And it looks farcical. Mifid II — some 1.7 million paragraphs of regulation covering trading and the clearing of trades — has been seven years in the making. Banks, brokers and clearing houses have been preparing for 12 months. Cumulatively, they have spent €2.5 billion on systems and compliance, say consultants. Doubtless a few euros on consultants, too.

Up Next, the weather . . . : Shares in clothing chain Next leapt 7% on Wednesday on news of better sales before Christmas. But, according to one analyst: “The real positive is the more optimistic outlook from CEO Simon Wolfson. [He] has an excellent reputation . . . so, for him to say that one or two of the headwinds facing the U.K.’s retailers should ease in the year ahead represents a significant fillip.”

The Daily Telegraph

Italian restaurant chain Strada to close a third of sites on back of rising costs: Italian food chain Strada has moved to close more than a third of its restaurants after blaming the rising costs of running its eateries.

Co-op festive sales boosted by Palmer & Harvey demise: The Co-operative doubled its sales growth over the festive period after profiting from the collapse of wholesaler Palmer & Harvey which left many of its corner shop rivals with empty shelves in the run-up to Christmas.

Numis co-Chief Executive takes home £500,000 more than his colleague: City adviser Numis has handed its co-Chief Executives a £2.5 million bonus package for the year to September – with one taking home a cheque £500,000 bigger than the other.

Maplin Boss to swap microchips for steak and chips as head of Gaucho: The Boss of electronics retailer Maplin will be giving up microchips in favour of steak and chips when he joins the owner of restaurant chain Gaucho later this month.

BT truce with Sky prepares the pitch for a Premier League pay cut: BT and Sky have effectively declared a truce in the battle that drove the Premier League’s annual domestic rights income from less than £600 million to more than £1.7 billion in the space of a few seasons.

The Questor Column:

Questor’s tip of the year: buy this outsourcer for its steady growth and low valuation: So for which of their holdings do the Crux managers have the highest hopes in 2018? The answer is a Danish stock called ISS. The company, founded in 1901, provides services such as cleaning, catering, security and facilities management. As a “business to business” operation ISS is not a household name but there is a high likelihood that readers will have come across some of its 500,000 employees many times, whether they are providing cleaning services on the London Underground, reception services at banks in the City or facilities management at NHS hospitals. ISS has “a number of characteristics” that make it “an attractive long-term investment”, Pease told Questor. The first, he said, is that the business benefits from gentle “secular” – that is, non-cyclical – growth thanks to the increased use of the outsourcing of non-core activities by many businesses. The stock’s second attractive characteristic, he said, is that 85%-90% of ISS’s revenue stream is typically recurring, so it has to replace only 10%-15% of its sales every year to keep the overall figure flat. For the stock’s third advantage he explained that ISS was a “people business” and as a result typically needed very low capital expenditure relative to its sales. The company was relisted in 2014 following a period of private equity ownership. Since then its fundamental performance has been strong, Pease said, but its share price has not followed suit. Questor says “Buy”.

The Guardian

U.S. drug firm offers cure for blindness – at $425,000 an eye: Spark Therapeutics says ‘responsible price’ for Luxturna gene therapy ensures access for patients with retinal defect. A drug whose inventors claim it can cure a rare form of blindness is to be one of the most expensive medicines ever sold at $850,000 (£630,000).

Shares in spread betting firm Plus500 soar thanks to bitcoin boom: The growth in gambling on the yo-yoing value of cryptocurrencies using risky derivatives products has helped boost the profits of the financial spread betting firm Plus500.

Daily Mail

Carillion woes continue as financial watchdog announces probe into ‘timeliness and content’ of its announcements: The Financial Conduct Authority has announced that it has opened an investigation into troubled infrastructure firm Carillion. The HS2 contractor announced that Britain’s financial watchdog was probing both the ‘timeliness and content’ of announcements made between 7th December 2016 and 10th July 2017.

Daily Express

Chinese braced for troublesome 2018 as economic issues rise to the surface: China’s economy predicts a challenging 2018 as the state’s leaders believe it will experience what it calls three years of “critical battles”. The world’s number two economy is attempting to tackle problems such as domestic debt, poverty and pollution, at a time when U.S. trade war threats are looming.

Brexit negotiations means ‘pessimism priced into the pound’: The pound is having “pessimism priced into” it because of Brexit but this could mean sterling could make a resurgence against the dollar in 2018. Pound sterling recorded its best annual performance against the dollar last year since 2009, with an almost 10% rise amid a weakness in the USD.

Surge in new cryptocurrency Ripple which is favoured by banks: Bitcoin is feeling the pressure from another cryptocurrency hot on it’s heels. Ripple has attracted tens of millions of dollars worth of investment leading to it being dubbed the bitcoin that banks like

The Scottish Herald

GRG fall-out could haunt RBS in 2018, analyst warns: The recovery of Royal Bank of Scotland risks being hampered in the year ahead by the continuing fall-out over its treatment of small business customers in the aftermath of the financial crash.

Aberdeen chartered accountant predicts surge in oil and gas sector deals: Aberdeen dealmaker Tom Faichnie has predicted a surge in mergers and acquisitions will transform the business landscape in the city this year amid signs brighter times are in prospect for the key oil and gas sector.

Bowleven extends Bomono deal: Bowleven has extended its farm-out agreement with Victoria Oil and Gas on the Bomono field in Cameroon as discussions continue with the Cameroon Government on how best to proceed with production plans.

The Scotsman

Seven tons of haggis has been exported to Canada since ban lifted: Macsween has shifted enough haggis to feed 40,000 Canadians since an export ban was lifted. The company has exported seven tons, or 17,500 packs, of haggis to Canada since the ban on the product being sold was removed in August 2017.

Online sales drive Next festive cheer: The clothing firm, the first to publish festive trading figures, said that online sales had risen by 13.4% over the 54 days from 1 November to Christmas Eve – a 10% increase from the same time last year.

City A.M.

Ottolenghi restaurants defy industry gloom to post a rise in profit: Ottolenghi delis and restaurants are defying the downward trend in the casual dining industry, recording an increase in profit and revenue for the year to April. The company, founded by Israeli-British chef Yotam Ottolenghi, said its London sites continue to outperform sales expectations, in a stark contrast to other restaurant groups which have warned of declining business in the capital.

Royal Mail and Saga Director Orna Ni-Chionna to chair remuneration committee at Burberry: FTSE 100 luxury brand Burberry has appointed Royal Mail and Saga Director Orna Ni-Chionna to its board as a non-Executive Director. Ni-Chionna will take up her position on the board with immediate effect, and will become chair of the remuneration committee at the beginning of February.

Morgan Stanley swoops to steal the crown from Goldman Sachs advising on announced M&A deals worth $136 billion last year: Morgan Stanley won the U.K. title for advising on the biggest share of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) announced last year, grabbing the crown from Goldman Sachs.

David Buik exits Panmure Gordon after three and a half years: Buik said today that he will be leaving the City firm at the end of January. He joined Panmure Gordon in April 2013, having been made redundant from Cantor Index the year before.

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