Newspapers: The Times, Independent, FT, Telegraph, Guardian, Mail, Express, Herald 120116

The Times

Rivals reject Bovis claims that cash-to-complete is common practice: The country’s biggest housebuilders have distanced themselves from Bovis Homes over claims that it is “industry practice” to pay customers cash to complete on unfinished homes by a certain date.

National Express turns its back on British rail: In what could come to be seen as the biggest raspberry yet directed towards the Department for Transport and its stewardship of the railways, National Express signalled its intention yesterday to abandon the network.

Unicorns welcome peer-to-peer lender to their elite circle: Funding Circle, the peer-to-peer lender that is one of London’s most promising “fintech” businesses, has secured $100 million from some of the world’s leading venture capital firms.

Americans turn up dial to 17 in Areva’s nuclear safety scare: France’s troubled nuclear reactor manufacturer was dragged further into a furore over allegedly false safety documents yesterday when an American watchdog said that nearly double the number of reactors were affected in the United States.

Watchdog warns water companies: The water regulator has warned companies to play nicely and not let down unsuspecting customers when the supply market to business and public sector estates is opened up to competition in ten weeks’ time.

Tullow faces heavy criticism over Chief Executive’s promotion: Tullow Oil was accused yesterday of flouting accepted boardroom best practice after promoting its Chief Executive and Founder to the role of Non-Executive Chairman.

Tweed’s next move made in Japan: The Harris Tweed Authority is to appoint an ambassador in Japan, one of the largest export markets for the fabric, to help to combat counterfeit products.

Page sings the blues despite profit rise: The mood at PageGroup may have been decidedly downbeat yesterday, but the recruitment group’s cautionary tale of political and economic uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic could not detract from results that drew loud applause in the City.

House of Fraser and Santa rally: After weeks of rumours that all is not well at House of Fraser, the department stores operator has reported a healthy rise in sales over the Christmas trading period.

Atlantis sees tide turning to other renewable energies: Atlantis Resources is launching a division to develop large-scale renewable power projects outside its specialist area of tidal energy. The company said that it was responding to investor demand and was conducting due diligence on schemes in the U.K.

Robots and automation ‘will put people out of work’: Economists have warned that Scotland’s skills support system will need to adapt to cope with greater use of automation and robotics.

The Independent

Pound sterling hits a new 31-year low against the dollar: The pound has tumbled to a new 31-year low against the dollar with the U.S. currency boosted ahead of President-elect Donald Trump’s press conference.

Nutella maker fights back against fears over cancer-causing palm oil: Ferrero, the maker of Nutella, has hit back at claims that palm oil used in their hazelnut and chocolate spreads could cause cancer.

U.K. employers would have to pay a £1,000-a-year fee per EU skilled worker after Brexit under new government plans: Employers would have to pay a £1,000-a-year fee for every EU skilled worker they bring in after Brexit, under plans being considered by the Government.

Brexit: Chancellor Philip Hammond warns German politicians ‘a lot is at stake’: Chancellor Philip Hammond has urged German politicians to collaborate with the U.K. in the upcoming Brexit negotiations, warning the country’s top Chief Executives and lawmakers that “a lot is at stake”.

Brexit latest: Economy grew by 0.5% in Q4 2016, says Niesr: The economy grew by 0.5% in the final quarter of 2016, according to the latest forecast from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (Niesr).

Samsung’s top Boss named as suspect in South Korea bribery scandal: The Boss of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, will be questioned as a suspect in a corruption scandal that has already led to the downfall of South Korea’s President.

George Soros NGOs to face crack down in Hungary thanks to Donald Trump’s victory: Hungary plans to crack down on non-governmental organisations linked to billionaire George Soros now that Donald Trump will occupy the White House, according to the Deputy Head of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s party.

World Bank cuts U.K. growth forecast in first review since Brexit vote: The World Bank has trimmed its growth forecast for the U.K., in its first major review of the state of the economy since the country’s June vote to quit the EU.

Financial Times

U.S. oil output to rise 1.3% in 2017, EIA says: U.S. oil production has turned a corner after a long period of weak petroleum prices, the government said, with volumes rising for the first time since early 2015.

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Oil companies prepare to ramp up investment again: Oil companies are preparing to ramp up spending this year as the recovery in crude prices gives them confidence to revive some of the projects postponed during the investment freeze of the past two years.

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U.S. lawmakers challenge Wells Fargo over rise in overdraft charges: Top U.S. lawmakers are challenging Wells Fargo to explain a recent rise in overdraft charges, signalling a new regulatory battle for the bank still reeling from a fake accounts scandal.

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Funding Circle raises £82 million from global investors: Peer-to-peer site Funding Circle has raised £82 million in equity capital from a group of global investors in a sign of support for the nascent U.K. market despite economic uncertainty following the Brexit vote.

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City of London lobbying group drops demand for EU ‘passport’: The City of London has retreated from demanding continued access to the single market in any post-Brexit deal with the EU, according to its principal lobbying group.

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Pressure mounts for Monte dei Paschi to disclose problem loans: Monte dei Paschi di Siena may be forced to reveal the source of some of its largest problem loans as part of a €6.5 billion state-led bailout.

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Activist hedge funds profit amid market volatility: The two largest activist investors in Europe, Cevian Capital and The Children’s Investment Fund, were among the best performing fund managers last year even as stock picking rivals struggled amid volatility in markets.

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Silicon Valley start-ups suffer fall in VC funding: Silicon Valley start-ups raised over a quarter less venture capital funding in 2016 than the year before, falling further than the global average and underperforming the other U.S. technology hubs.

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Value of reported fraud in U.K. financial services falls sharply: The value of reported fraud in the U.K.’s financial services sector has fallen sharply by more than 62% to £214.9 million in 2016, according to a new analysis by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO.

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Sale of Bradford & Bingley mortgages enters final stages: A range of hedge funds and private equity firms — but only one U.K. bank — are in the final stages of bidding for £12.5 billion of Bradford & Bingley mortgages being sold by the U.K. government, according to people briefed on the plans.

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Size matters in Russian banking as profitability returns: After western sanctions, plummeting oil prices and a currency slump sent the country into recession in 2014, Russia’s banking sector, hit hard by the economic slowdown, is back in the black.

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‘Unfazed’ Taylor Wimpey aims for upper end of profit expectations: The FTSE 100 housebuilder Taylor Wimpey said on Wednesday it expected to “deliver full year profitability at the upper end of market consensus” after strong trading in 2016.

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Merck shares get a shot in the arm as cancer drug gets priority review: Merck & Co shares rose 5.4% on Wednesday, after it got a welcome boost from U.S. regulators in its battle to lead the way on a next-generation group of cancer drugs.

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Ford discusses compensation with suppliers after scrapping Mexico plant: Ford is in compensation talks with companies that had been due to supply its cancelled Mexican car plant.

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Warburg leads move on Singapore warehouse group GLP: Warburg Pincus is setting up a consortium to bid for Global Logistic Properties, a warehouse operator in Singapore with a market value of about $8.2 billion, as it looks to benefit from growing demand in ecommerce.

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Airbus warns of slowdown ahead as year ends on a high: Airbus signalled a slowdown in sales this year as the European aircraft maker unveiled a better than expected close to 2016’s order book, beating U.S. rival Boeing and meeting its goal to replace every delivery with a new sale.

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Foxconn owner posts first revenue fall in two decades: Hon Hai, the owner of Apple supplier Foxconn, has chalked up its first fall in revenues in more than two decades on the back of the drop in iPhone sales last year.

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NBA looks to score big with global digital rights revenues: The NBA has said team franchises can continue to increase in value as the U.S. league expects to score multibillion-dollar global digital rights deals, even as viewers drift away from watching sport on television.

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Hong Kong bar group jumps 1,300% on debut: Staff costs are rising faster than beer prices and its market faces intense competition. Still, Hong Kong investors sent Bar Pacific soaring as much as 1,600% on its debut for the best-ever opening day by a pub group anywhere in the world.

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Ted Baker sales jump as founder warns of ‘desolate’ high streets: The Boss of U.K. fashion brand Ted Baker has warned that high streets will become “desolate” as customers continue to eschew bricks-and-mortar stores for online shopping, and bemoaned the “faceless business” of modern retailing, as his company reported strong Christmas sales.

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Jawbone in search of new funds after Fitbit approach: Fitbit made an approach late last year to buy Jawbone, its longstanding rival in wearable technology, as the struggling maker of UP fitness trackers scrambles to secure its future.

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RMT widens dispute over role of train guards: The union that has called a series of strikes on Southern Rail widened the dispute to two further train operators on Wednesday.

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Blockbuster year for Cineworld as it breaks admissions record: Cineworld reported record admissions in 2016, boosted by the success of blockbuster films including Star Wars: Rogue One and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

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U.S. earnings: last tango on Wall St: Will the Trump rally be the parting salvo of Obama‘s bull market — or the first chapter in a new playbook of U.S. stock market growth? The first earnings reporting season after the recent Presidential elections will force company executives to divulge clues. Whether their assessment of firms’ prospects is bright enough to justify investors’ enthusiasm in recent weeks will matter more than actual earnings performance in the half quarter since the November 8 Presidential election.

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VW/Porsche: tailgating: Porsche’s annual report is lavishly illustrated with photographs of the gleaming sports cars that bear its name. Disappointingly, it does not make any of them. The main asset of Porsche Automobil Holding is its 31% economic stake in Volkswagen, which it owns through the voting ordinary shares.

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Cobham: procyclical prang: Old flying aces reckoned a good landing was one you could walk away from. A great landing left your biplane intact, too. Bob Murphy’s departure last year from Cobham, founded by barnstorming aviator Sir Alan Cobham, was only a good landing. The battered state of the U.K. aerospace group was emphasised on Wednesday, when new management warned on profits and debt.

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Hon Hai: screen test: Modern portfolio theory holds that diversification reduces risk. This is as true for companies as it is for fund managers. Late on Tuesday, Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry reported consolidated annual revenues that fell for the first time in about two decades.

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Sainsbury’s plan for Argos avoids catalogue of errors: This, on the face of it, was the rationale behind J Sainsbury’s decision last year to pay £1.2 billion for Home Retail Group, owner of the Argos catalogue retail chain. Putting to one side the apparent mismatch in purchasing frequencies, it was not clear how Argos’s non-food offerings would help Sainsbury’s grocery challenges.

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The Daily Telegraph

Carney: Brexit no longer biggest stability threat as policymakers warn over ‘extremely rapid’ credit growth: Brexit no longer poses the biggest domestic financial stability risk, according to the Governor of the Bank of England, who signalled that the economy’s resilience would prompt the Bank to upgrade its U.K. growth forecasts within weeks.

Airbus reaffirms commitment to A380 ‘superjumbo’ as it posts record deliveries: Airbus Chiefs have reaffirmed their commitment to the slow-selling A380 “superjumbo” as they announced record annual deliveries of its family of aircraft.

VW six face ‘dieselgate’ charges as U.S. cracks down on senior executives: U.S. prosectors will lay criminal charges against six Volkswagen executives over their role in the “dieselgate” emissions scandal, in addition to a multi-billion-dollar settlement against the company.

MPs call for a halt to Green Investment Bank sale: The Green Investment Bank sell-off should be paused to ensure its environmental credentials are not damaged by the privatisation, MPs have urged.

Shire pays U.S authorities $350 million to settle illegal kickbacks case: Pharmaceuticals giant Shire is to pay $350 million ($287 million) to settle a lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justic (DoJ) in which it was claimed that the rare disease specialist used illegal kickbacks, such as lavish dinners and cash, to encourage doctors and clinics to buy its products.

Metal Tiger to list Thai mining joint venture on Aim: Junior mining group Metal Tiger plans to bring a taste of Thailand to London’s Aim market, with the initial public offering of shares in a silver, lead and zinc venture.

London’s Garden Bridge project in jeopardy putting £40 million taxpayer money at risk: London’s controversial Garden Bridge project is in jeopardy after accounts revealed that the charity behind it is no longer a going concern.

Interserve warns of ‘disappointing performance’ in U.K. construction arm ahead of results: Interserve has warned that is facing “disappointing performance” in its U.K. construction arm ahead of releasing its results for last year next month.

The Questor Column:

Accounting quirk means housebuilders are under-valued – this is the one to buy: Housebuilders’ shares are drifting as the market seeks to digest conflicting data on the sector’s outlook. Think tank OECD fired warning shots earlier this month, saying years of price growth in a number of wealthy markets, including Britain, were laying the ground for sudden falls. The multiple of average national earnings to first-time buyers’ property prices, a key measure of affordability, is at 5.3, very near a 30-year-high, according to mutual lender Nationwide. Housebuilders remain a highly controversial area. Fund firm Phoenix took on the management of the £53 million quoted investment fund Aurora Investment Trust a year ago. It upped the portfolio’s exposure to housebuilders Barratt and Bellway while prices were depressed in the summer. Questor already owns Crest Nicholson in its income portfolio (see Friday’s column) but today tips Bovis Homes, a smaller builder with a focus on the south east – outside London. A December profit warning, after it pushed back the completion date of 180 properties, saw its share price slump 7% to 792p. It has since recovered, possibly helped by the resignation of Chief Executive David Ritchie on Monday. While the exit of its Chief Executive might appear to signal a company in freefall, new leadership may be what’s needed to unlock the value expressed in its narrow ratio. Its focus on the wealthy south east but aversion to London is also a strength, as it is in prime parts of the capital where the first signs of a slowdown are being felt. Still down 17% from its pre-Brexit price of 1,024p, Bovis is a buy. Bovis Homes. Questor says “Buy”.

The Guardian

Philip Hammond seeks to assure Germany over ‘smooth path’ to Brexit: The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has attempted to pave the way for a smooth Brexit by assuring Germany that the U.K. has no desire to disrupt the EU during its divorce from Brussels.

Ethical gift market helps Oxfam post highest Christmas sales for five years: Oxfam has reported its highest sales for five years on the back of increased demand for secondhand clothes and ethical gifts.

Malta accused of being tax haven as it takes EU Presidency: Malta has been accused of being a tax haven, just as it takes the helm of the European Union in a critical year for the bloc’s crackdown on tax avoidance.

Xi Jinping to become the first Chinese President to attend WEF in Davos: Chinese leader Xi Jinping will lead an 80-strong delegation of business executives and billionaires to the annual gathering of the powerful and super-rich in Davos next week.

Rising inequality threatens world economy, says WEF: Rising income inequality and the polarisation of societies pose a risk to the global economy in 2017 and could result in the rolling back of globalisation unless urgent action is taken, according to the World Economic Forum.

Daily Mail

Ted baker shakes off High Street slump and pledges no price hikes after reporting surging Christmas sales: Fashion retailer Ted Baker gave the High Street a boost by reporting surging sales before Christmas. The brand said men’s suits and women’s coats were top sellers, helping push sales up 17.9% in the eight weeks to January 7.

German takeover of the London Stock Exchange must be probed, says ECB Boss: A German takeover of the London Stock Exchange faced a fresh barrier last night after European bank Chief Mario Draghi raised questions about the £21 billion deal.

Cobham shares nosedive after fourth profit alert at crisis-hit defence giant: Air-to-air fuelling pioneer Cobham scrapped its final dividend after issuing a fourth profit warning in just over a year. The defence giant’s shares nosedived yesterday as management said profit for 2016 was £245 million, below the range set out in its update last October.

Cineworld revenues soar as Bridget Jones’s Baby, Star Wars: Rogue One and Zootropolis pull in the crowds: A record 100 million visits were paid to Cineworld’s cinemas last year as crowds flocked to see films including Bridget Jones’s Baby, Star Wars: Rogue One and Zootropolis.

Daily Express

Brexit U-turn: Bank of England Boss says Europe needs to fear exit as U.K. risk subsides: The Bank of England is not having a Michael Fish moment, despite policymakers wrongly warning about the impact of a Brexit vote, Mark Carney claimed today.

Split the Eurozone: Weak France and Italy must be kicked out, blasts Germany’s AfD leader: France should be kicked out of the Eurozone along with fellow struggling countries Italy, Spain and Portugal, according to Germany’s populist party Chief.

Foxtons profits plunge amid fears of a London property crash: Shares in Foxtons plummeted by 9%, after the London estate agent today revealed a heavy hit to profits amid a downturn in the capital’s housing market.

Lidl notches record Christmas sales as shoppers shell out on lobster: Budget supermarket Lidl notched up record sales over the Christmas period after a surge in lobster sales.

Argos feels at home thanks to Sainsbury’s festive sales boost: Sainsbury’s enjoyed a festive boost from its £1.4 billion takeover of Argos as having electricals concessions in dozens of its supermarkets helped it to sell more groceries.

The Scottish Herald

Warning of huge cut in North Sea spend: Investment in the North Sea will plunge 30%, around £2.6 billion, this year although spending will increase globally for the first time since the crude price plunge started in 2014, experts at Wood Mackenzie have predicted.

Airports celebrating record annual passenger numbers: Glasgow and Edinburgh airports achieved record annual passenger numbers last year, the latest figures show, but Aberdeen saw a sharp decline in traffic as oil and gas sector weakness weighed.

Top Scottish fish-and-chip business expands: Catch, which recently claimed the accolade of Scotland’s top fish and chip restaurant, is opening another outlet in Netherlee in East Renfrewshire and launching battered salmon suppers.

Peer-to-peer firm LendingCrowd to launch innovative finance ISA: Edinburgh alternative finance business LendingCrowd is looking to take advantage of changes introduced by the Government last year to launch an innovative finance ISA within the next few weeks.

Devro calms markets with better second half update: Moodiesburn sausage-skin maker Devro is expecting to post an underlying operating profit of £38 million for the 2016 year after improved performance in some markets offset weakness in the Americas.

Omega gets BSI approval for Indian subsidiary: Omega Diagnostics will see a return on its £1 million investment in India in a year after achieving accreditation that allows it to sell its malaria and pregnancy testing kits in the Indian market.

Office deals set to slow in Edinburgh as Brexit uncertainty delays moves: Brexit uncertainty is beginning to impact the office market in Edinburgh as more businesses look set to delay their next move.

Scotland closing productivity gap: Scotland has narrowed the gap between productivity in the country and the U.K. average, official figures suggest.

North Ayrshire Council highlights value of family businesses: North Ayrshire Council has appointed its first family business advisor in a move that recognises the importance of the sector to the local economy.

Sigma hails year of progress ahead of full results: Edinburgh regeneration specialist Sigma Capital has reassured investors that its 2016 results will be “broadly in line with market expectations” after warning in September that it was “materially rebasing” its expectations.

Scottish firm lights up Trainspotting sequel: Scottish start up, Blind Spot Gear is to launch its second product this year after the firm’s original lighting system was used by the makers of T2 Trainspotting and Outlander.

The Scotsman

Drastic cuts looming for Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay events: Edinburgh’s Christmas and Hogmanay festivals face being dramatically scaled back this year after city council chiefs decided to slash their backing for the events.

Rettie lands Taylor Wimpey rental brief in Edinburgh: Property group Rettie & Co has been appointed by housebuilder Taylor Wimpey to market a rental development at Edinburgh’s Western Harbour.

Building innovation centre expands with Hamilton facility: Scotland’s publicly-backed innovation centre for the construction sector is set to create a new facility in Lanarkshire in a bid to increase collaboration across the industry.

DM Hall names John Albiston as new Senior Partner: Chartered surveyor DM Hall has named Inverness-based veteran John Albiston as its new Senior Partner.

Energy giant Centrica to cut 25 jobs in Aberdeen: Scottish Gas owner Centrica has revealed that it is cutting 25 jobs in Aberdeen as it reduces its exploration and production division in the city.

City A.M.

Fashion industry blues: Sector falters as it loses £750 million and sales suffer deepest decline since 2009: Britain’s fashion market struck a feeble pose last year, when it suffered its deepest sales decline since August 2009, according to figures from Kantar Worldpanel.

Banks could pull in more customers if they offered insurance, survey suggests: A survey released today contains a potential solution for banking bosses worried about falling customer numbers: start offering insurance products.

Lobby group calls for clear and upfront transitional plans to see City through lengthy Brexit process: A leading think tank has today called on the government to secure “clear and upfront” transitional arrangements to smooth the path for the City through Brexit.

Accused ex-Barclays trader was given no legal guidance by employer, lawyer says: The lawyer for an ex-Barclays trader facing forex-fixing claims in the U.S. has hit back at the trader’s former employer for not giving him enough guidance on the law.

Over 30 million journeys have been been made using Sadiq Khan’s one-hour bus Hopper fare in under four months: Over 30 million journeys have now been made using the bus Hopper fare, in under four months since its introduction in September 2016.

Trump vows “major” border taxes for businesses leaving the U.S. and puts pharmaceuticals in crosshairs: President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to install “major” taxes on U.S. businesses relocating outside of the country, and fired a warning shot across the bows of the pharmaceuticals sector.

Green bond supply will stagnate in 2017 with no repeat of Chinese expansion: The rapid increase in green investment bonds will grind to a halt in 2017 as Chinese issuers abstain from providing bumper supply to the market.

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