Today’s Newspapers: The Times, Independent, FT, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, Express, Herald 220416

The Times

Clothes and food drag down sales figures: Retailers in Britain have been hit by a significant drop in sales as consumers cut back on food and clothes in what analysts say may be the latest signs of strife on the high street.

Long-haul routes fuel rise in Heathrow profits: A boom in demand for profitable long-haul routes resulted in soaring profits for Heathrow in the first three months of the year.

Draghi hits out as ECB maintains zero rate: Interest rates in the EU could fall deeper into negative territory, Mario Draghi said yesterday, as he talked down the prospect of “helicopter money” and hit back at critics in Germany.

Darty at heart of electric bid storm: Investors in Darty were rubbing their hands with glee after the bidding battle for the French electricals chain sparked into a frenzy yesterday.

U.S. unemployment claims at lowest since 1973: The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefit fell last week to the lowest level since November 1973.

Storm clouds gather at stricken SunEdison: A one-time darling of America’s alternative energy sector filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday after a year-long acquisition spree left it with an unsustainable mountain of debt.

Jockey Club puts £20 million into the racing prize pot: The Owner of Britain’s best known racecourses, including Aintree, Epsom Downs and Cheltenham, has contributed a record £19.9 million to the sport’s prize money pool on the back of solid results last year.

TSB calls on watchdog to take bite out of big four: Customers should get a monthly bill from their bank with clear information about how much they are paying for their account, according to the Chief Executive of TSB.

Ladbrokes struggle over obstacles at Cheltenham: The Chief Executive of Ladbrokes has accused rivals of employing “frankly unsustainable” promotions during the Cheltenham Festival, exacerbating a dismal week for the betting industry as a string of favourites romped home.

The Independent

Executive pay is ‘not fit for purpose’ and needs reform, City bosses warn: Britain’s high profile bosses are calling for a reform over executive pay to restore confidence in a system that is seen as “broken”, according to a new report.

Lloyds is cutting more than 600 jobs and shutting 21 branches: Lloyds Banking Group, Britain’s largest mortgage lender, will eliminate 625 jobs across operations and close 21 branches as part of broader cost cuts announced in October 2014.

Sky gained fewer new customers after cutting discounts and failing to secure Champions League rights: Sky reported rising customer attrition rates across Europe as the broadcaster curtailed discounts in the U.K. and Ireland and lost viewers in Italy after failing to secure the rights to Champions League soccer matches.

Healthcare is now top industry for cyberattacks, says IBM: Cybercriminals have switched targets from banks to healthcare as the industry moved into the top spot of the rankings as the most-attacked in 2015, new research shows.

Gold hidden in secret vaults beneath the Bank of England worth $248 billion: A fifth of the world’s gold is hidden under London, worth an estimated £172 billion ($248 billion). The vaults under the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street are said to hold 5,134 tonnes of gold.

Financial Times

U.K. challenger banks: room to grow: When do the U.K.’s challenger banks stop confronting and start conforming? Their valuations have been converging with those of mainstream lenders — but they should still have much more room to grow.

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SABMiller delivers in Africa for AB InBev: SABMiller and Heineken this week painted a picture of contrasting fortunes in Africa, the continent with the fastest growth in beer demand.

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Kering sales miss expectations as tourists cut back: Kering has reported sales that came in below expectations, reflecting the challenges that luxury groups face against a slowing Chinese economy and shifting trends in global tourism.

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Alphabet shares dive 7% after results released: Alphabet shares saw their steepest fall immediately after an earnings report in four years, after first quarter earnings missed Wall Street forecasts and Google ad prices tumbled.

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Vatican suspends PwC audit of its finances: The Vatican has suspended an audit of its finances by accountancy firm PwC, marking a setback for Pope Francis’s drive to distance the Holy See’s economy from its scandal-ridden past and bring it into line with international standards.

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FBI paid more than $1.4 million for iPhone hack: The FBI paid more than $1.4 million to hackers who developed a way to gain access to the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino attackers, leading the law enforcement agency to drop litigation against Apple intended to force the company to help break into the device.

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Top London homes being sold at a discount: More than half of homes being sold in London’s most expensive neighbourhoods are changing hands at discounts of 10% or more off their initial asking prices as vendors are forced to adapt to a slowing market.

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Daimler opens emissions investigation: Daimler has opened an investigation into “possible indications of irregularities” in its emissions at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice, the owner of Mercedes-Benz announced late on Thursday evening.

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U.S. finance professionals face fresh pay crackdown: Thousands of U.S. finance professionals from Wall Street traders to hedge fund managers face new restrictions on pay after regulators put forward long-delayed plans to restrict bonuses.

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Shire: bounced 2.8% to £43.08 as analysts played down the competition concerns. Shire slipped on Wednesday after BioMarin released promising trial data for an experimental gene therapy treatment for haemophilia, where Shire’s planned Baxalta acquisition is the market leader

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Ashtead: rose 3.7% to 891p after saying its full year results should be towards the top end of expectations.

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Lex:

China’s debt: not a cheap American copy: The case for the prosecution: George Soros, who is considerably richer than you, says China’s debts remind him eerily of the U.S. pre-2008. The defence: people often say this sort of thing, and China always shrugs it off.

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Volkswagen: stock buyback: A Volkswagen Passat with a 2l diesel engine, bought in the U.S, costs about $18,000. A nice, representative, mid-range model. VW, which systematically fiddled the software in its 2l diesels to “meet” emissions standards, has offered to buy back 480,000 of them in the U.S. Using the Passat as an estimate of the average price buyers paid, this bit of contrition will cost it about $8.6 billion.

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Blackstone: taking a flyer: For a biotech start-up or social network that happens to be short on revenue but long on upside, there should be little difficulty raising money from public markets.

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Lombard:

Sajid Javid more Sontaran than Thatcherite: There has been discussion on social media whether business Minister Sajid Javid is a Sontaran, a bullet-headed extraterrestrial from TV series Doctor Who. Whatever he is, Mr Javid isn’t a Thatcherite any more. Otherwise he would not be offering to take a state stake of up to 25% in any buyout of Tata Steel U.K., owner of the Port Talbot steel works.

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The Daily Telegraph

Pay protests widen as 42% of investors vote against Anglo American Chief’s compensation: Anglo American became the latest company to fall foul of disgruntled investors as the so-called Shareholder Spring against governance at the top of some of Britain’s biggest companies intensified.

China risks global ‘steel war’ as tempers flare: China is on a collision course with the world’s leading powers over excess steel output after it refused to sign up to an emergency global plan to cut capacity and eliminate subsidies.

Greek economy defies expectations by moving back into the black: Greece’s economy has performed “substantially better” than forecast in its massive bail-out deal, according to the EU, ahead of Friday’s meeting of Eurozone Finance Ministers to discuss the rescue.

Government prepares to part-nationalise British steel sector: The Government has announced its willingness to part-nationalise much of the British steel sector, in an attempt to support the floundering industry.

Hedge fund stars’ fortunes hostage to market swings: Britain’s richest hedge fund managers have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune this year, as the tempestuous financial markets added or erased hundreds of millions of pounds within some tycoons’ own asset piles.

New chapter for Saga as private equity owners sell out: The over-50s group Saga is preparing for life after private equity ownership after Acromas sold off the remainder of its shares.

Morgan Stanley to sell £150 million Walkie Talkie stake: Investors will have the chance to own part of one of London’s most iconic buildings as Morgan Stanley is set to sell its stake in the Walkie Talkie skyscraper.

Wood Group safeguards 500 North Sea jobs with flurry of deals: Oil services giant Wood Group has clinched a string of multi-million pound contracts in recent months, safeguarding the jobs of more than 500 North Sea oil workers.

Pensioners selling annuities for cash should take ‘cost test’, says watchdog: Thousands of consumers looking to sell their annuities in exchange for a cash lump sum under the new proposed rules could be at risk unless adequate protection measures are put in place.

The Questor Column:

U.K. commercial property market is heading for a fall: Shares in real estate investment trusts, or REITs, have been extremely attractive for income hungry retail investors during the past seven years. However, the property market moves in cycles and there are an increasing number of signs that we have reached the top of the latest one, and that means investors chasing income could suffer painful losses of capital. Shares in REITs are driven by two factors. Firstly rental income from property has steadily risen as the U.K. economy recovered and companies need more space. Secondly U.K. property has become increasingly attractive for overseas investors to store their wealth, and this increase in demand has driven up property prices. However, there are a number of issues undermining this strong run. First up is that demand is drying up. The buying power of petrodollar rich sovereign wealth funds has been seriously undermined by the collapse in oil prices. In a classic economic perfect storm just as demand fades there is a tsunami of supply that is about to hit the market. In the London market there is 26 million sq ft of new office space due for completion within the next four years.  The U.K. economic recovery that has been behind steadily rising rents is also running out of steam. The unemployment level is now rising and city bonuses are falling according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics. Political risk to the property market is also on the rise. The Brexit vote on June 23 could still go either way, and leaving the EU would undoubtedly be bad for U.K. property prices. Shares in British Land and Land Securities have fallen 20% during the past six months but this is not a buying opportunity as they still trade on more than 20 times forecast earnings. Time to sell. Real estate investment trusts. Questor says “Sell”.

The Guardian

Hedge fund manager goes from billionaire to millionaire in profits plunge: Hedge fund manager Crispin Odey has seen his personal fortune plummet by £200 million, turning him from billionaire to multimillionaire.

AstraZeneca to sequence 2 million genomes in hunt for new drugs: AstraZeneca has teamed up with genome pioneer Craig Venter to launch a huge gene hunt in the most comprehensive bet yet by a pharmaceutical firm on the potential of genetic variations to unlock routes to new medicines.

Diesel cars’ emissions far higher on road than in lab, tests show: Diesel cars are producing many times more health-damaging pollutants than claimed by laboratory tests, with some emitting up to 12 times the EU maximum when tested on the road, according to a government investigation undertaken following the Volkswagen scandal.

Mario Draghi defends ECB independence after German criticisms: The European Central Bank President has launched a robust defence of the institution’s independence after criticism from Germany that rock-bottom euro interest rates are hurting savers and fuelling rightwing nationalism.

Tata Steel: government offers to part-nationalise U.K. plants: A rescue deal for the Tata Steel plant at Port Talbot appears increasingly likely after ministers confirmed they were prepared to part-nationalise Tata’s U.K. business to attract a buyer in the coming weeks.

Daily Mail

Pampered pooches boost Pets At Home sales as firm highlights performance in its vet practices and grooming salons: Pampered pooches helped retailer Pets At Home report a 3.2% jump in sales in the last three months. The chain, which sells pets and products for them, highlighted the performance in its vet practices and grooming salons.

Schroders’ hypocrisy as it plans to shift CEO Michael Dobson to Chairman after refusing to back similar changes at other firms: One of Britain’s oldest investment groups is hoping to appoint its Chief Executive as Chairman – despite having refused to back similar changes at other firms 40% of the time. Schroders wants to shift current Boss Michael Dobson to Chairman – a position meant for an independent candidate who holds executives to account.

The last hurrah for buy-to-let? Biggest ever distortion of the property market as landlords rushing to beat stamp duty hike send mortgages up 59%: A frantic rush by landlords and second home buyers to beat the new stamp duty deadline saw mortgage lending in March rocket 59% higher than a year ago. The Council of Mortgage Lenders said it had seen the biggest stamp duty distortion of the property market ever, as buy-to-let purchasers stormed the market. A total of £25.7 billion in mortgages were dished out last month – 43% more than February when lending totalled £18 billion.

Daily Express

Britain’s debt now at £1.6 trillion as George Osborne blows yet another economy promise: BRITAIN’s debt sky-rocketed to £1.594 trillion, as George Osborne officially broke another of his own economy borrowing rules, figures revealed today.

Fixing U.K.’s ‘digital divide’ can increase productivity: A divide is opening up across the U.K. economy as many firms fail to embrace the digital age and its potential to tackle the nation’s poor productivity record, the CBI warns today.

Volkswagen to compensate Americans for diesel scandal as British drivers get no payout: Carmaker Volkswagen is to pay almost half a million American drivers “substantial compensation” over the diesel cheating scandal, while British owners will not receive a single penny.

The Scottish Herald

Owner of Paisley-based Chivas Brothers highlights challenges facing whisky makers in China: Drinks giant Pernod Ricard has reported another big drop in sales of Scotch whisky in China but said it remains confident of the future potential of the market.

Gym supplier Anytime rebrands as Origin: A Scottish-based fitness equipment company is planning to more than double turnover to around £20 million during the next few years through a programme of international growth.

Gama Aviation flies higher: Gama Aviation, listed on the Alternative Investment Market after a reverse takeover of private jet operator Hangar 8, has reported a maiden pretax profit of $6.9 million (£4 million).

Midlothian-based Arrayjet sets up consultancy for life sciences industry: Arrayjet, the Midlothian instrumentation company, has launched a consultancy service to offer its bio-printing expertise to life sciences businesses around the world.

Scottish business failures up 10% year-on-year, finds KPMG: New corporate insolvency statistics from accountancy firm KPMG show a marked increase in the number of businesses failing in Scotland during the first quarter of 2016.

FSB to launch Women in Enterprise Taskforce: The Federation of Small Businesses has launched a ‘Women in Enterprise Taskforce’ to support women entrepreneurs and business owners.

The Scotsman

Scotmid sees tough times ahead despite rise in annual profits: Co-operative retailer Scotmid has improved its profits amid a sluggish industry backdrop but warned of “tough decisions” ahead that will inevitably result in more job losses.

Kirkcaldy law practice to merge with Thorntons: Tayside law firm Thorntons has announced that it is merging with Kirkcaldy-based practice Clarkson Hamilton, extending its reach down the east coast, as of June.

New Legal Affairs Director for Scotch Whisky Association: The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has named Alan Park as its new Director of Legal Affairs.

Shetland set for a record-breaking cruise ship season: Shetland is to experience a record-breaking year with cruise ship visits in 2016, with the first vessel kicking off the start of the season this weekend.

Omega Diagnostics insists prognosis looks ‘bright’: Life sciences firm Omega Diagnostics today said its prospects were “bright” as it forecast a rise in annual sales.

City A.M.

IEA predicts biggest non-Opec output fall in a quarter century: The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects non-Opec output to fall this year by the most in 25 years. IEA Chief, Faith Birol, added that low oil prices had cut investment by around 40% over the past two years, particularly in the U.S, Canada, Latin America and Russia.

HMRC launches consultation on simpler tax of life insurance bonds: ​Life insurance bonds will be taxed in a simpler way after HMRC launched a consultation into how they should be treated.

Microsoft shares drop as quarterly results miss expectations: Microsoft shares fell as much as 5% in after-hours trading after its third quarter results missed expectations. The software giant’s net income fell to $3.76 billion, or 47 cents per share, in the third quarter ended 31 March, from $4.99 billion, or 61 cents per share a year earlier.

Starbucks sales growth slips as all regions fall short: Starbucks shares fell nearly 5% as the world’s largest coffee chain missed expectations for the fiscal second quarter.

Gaucho Group beefs up board with new Non-Executive Chairman Luke Johnson: Argentine steakhouse chain Gaucho Group, backed by Equistone Partners Europe, has appointed hospitality and leisure entrepreneur Luke Johnson as Non-Executive Chairman.

BNY Mellon joins other U.S. banks in beating expectations in its first quarter: Bank of New York Mellon has posted a 5% increase in first quarter profit due to heavy cost cutting and the U.S. interest rate hike in December.

Estate Agent Wars: Competitions watchdog warns firms over suspected collusion in OnTheMarket antitrust row: Estate agents have been sent a warning by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), telling them they may be breaking the law by making “joint decisions” to join the portal and exit rivals such as Rightmove and Zoopla.

Masthaven secures first retail banking licence of 2016 as challenger banks keep up the pressure on traditional groups: The government has granted its first retail banking licence of the year ​to Masthaven Bank – and the group is promising to “disrupt the market” with its approach to savings, mortgages and staff.

Visa shares slump as it changes Visa Europe deal: Visa’s shares skidded down nearly 5% in after market trading after the credit and debit card giant cut its full year revenue growth forecast.

YouGov Poll: Twice as many people support buy-to-let tax hike than oppose it: The recent hike in the stamp duty levy for buy-to-let landlords was met with fierce opposition from landlord groups when it came into force on 1 April. However, according to YouGov survey released today, more than twice the number of U.K. adults were in favour of the 3% surcharge than those who opposed it.

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