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Newspaper Briefing including 'Roman Abramovich goes for gold' - Daily Express

The Times

Gilts: U.K. government bonds proved resilient, despite Greece taking a step towards avoiding a messy default and stock markets rising in response. The March gilt future settled 8 ticks higher at 115.65, while German bunds held firm, as investors remained leery of Greece. In the cash market, the yield on 10-year gilts dipped 2 basis points to 2.12%.

Bet of the day: Morgan Crucibles share price had improved by nearly 24% this year, but spread-betters were still buyers in advance of annual results. Punters backed Britains biggest maker of carbon and ceramic products for industry to have made further progress in emerging markets.

Deal of the day: Toumaz rose 11.3% to 9.875p, after raising 11.2 million by selling new shares at 8.75p each via finnCap, its broker. The AIM Company will use the money to invest in its new joint venture with Imagination Technologies, the FTSE 350 microchip designer, which will concentrate on developing Toumazs low-power chip know-how.

Banking Chief failed to disclose 2 million shares deal: An executive at Standard Chartered is facing a possible investigation by the Financial Services Authority after failing to disclose a 2 million shares deal to the bank for more than three weeks. Jaspal Singh Bindra, the Hong Kong-based Chief Executive of Standard Chartereds Asia business, pledged 153,000 bank shares as security for a loan on 28 December.

Dream fades for nation of renters: Home ownership will remain a long-held dream for most people unless there are significant policy changes to tackle the lack of affordable housing, a cross-industry report has found. Grainger said that research it had carried out among politicians, homeowners, institutions and policy experts showed that increasingly Britain was becoming a nation of renters.

Are you sitting comfortably? City office space is shrinking fast: Job cuts and fears of another recession are causing large businesses to cut the amount of office space they occupy in Londons Square Mile. In a worrying development for the City where up to ten million sq ft of office space could be built in the next four years a report by DTZ shows that a space efficiency drive by tenants have led to a 7.3% drop in occupancy costs.

Profitable investment fund to be first to get 200 million hand-out to help businesses: The Treasury is preparing to hand 200 million to a City of London investment fund as part of the Governments attempt to increase lending to small and medium-size businesses. The move, to be announced in the Budget next month, comes as it emerged that lending by Britains top five banks shrank continuously last year.

Stockbroker barred after failing to protect client funds: Pritchard Stockbrokers, where Craig Whyte, the Chairman of Rangers Football Club, is a Director and a minority shareholder, has been barred from handling new investments for allegedly failing to protect client funds, raising serious concerns about its fitness to carry out regulated activities, the Financial Services Authority said.

The Independent

First-time buyers rush to beat expiry of stamp duty holiday: First-time buyers spent 2.3 billion getting on the property ladder in December a 10% rise on the previous month in an attempt to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday which ends next month. The Council of Mortgage Lenders said 18,700 loans were made to new homeowners in the last four weeks of 2011.

Phoenix looks to sell toy developer Vivid for 80 million: The Owner of the toy developer Vivid Imaginations has hired advisers at KPMG to sell the company for up to 80 million. Vivid, which licenses Moshi Monsters toys, has been backed by Phoenix Equity Partners since a 62 million management buyout in 2002 but the private equity firm now wants to exit its investment.

Peppa Pig firm in a trough after sell-off plans fail: Nearly a fifth was lost from the market capitalisation of media firm Entertainment One after it ditched plans to sell the company, following offers that did not adequately reflect its value. The company, Owner of the popular childrens TV cartoon Peppa Pig, said it would instead focus on a number of unnamed acquisition opportunities.

Scandal-hit Olympus looks at tie-ups as losses loom: The Japanese camera and medical equipment maker Olympus said it expected to have lost 32 billion (260 million) in the year which ends next month. The group, which sacked its British Chief Executive Michael Woodford late last year after he exposed a $1.7 billion (1 billion) accounting scandal, is looking at potential corporate tie-ups with rivals such as Sony, Fujitsu and Samsung.

High yen and Thai floods hit growth: Floods in Thailand and a strong yen did heavy damage to Japan as the worlds second-biggest economy floundered in the final quarter of 2011, official figures showed. Output shrank 0.6% in the October-December quarter twice as bad as expected dealing a blow to Japans efforts to fight back from the tsunami which devastated the north-east coast and caused a nuclear disaster nearly a year ago.

TUC says real jobless toll is 6.3 million: Unemployment could be as high as 6.3 million in the U.K. if a different counting measure was used, says a new report from the TUC. The trade unions body said the higher joblessness figure, more than twice the official total, was revealed using an American measure which includes people in part-time jobs because they cannot find full-time work and recent redundancies.

EU change will send U.K. firms to the wall: Many U.K. businesses could be pushed into insolvency by European pension proposals, risking significant job losses, industry bodies warned. In a letter to Jos Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, ahead of EU directives due this week, the National Association of Pension Funds, the CBI and the TUC labour union group warned the new rules would have a disastrous impact.

The Daily Telegraph

Britain could be stripped of AAA credit rating within a year: Britain could be stripped of its AAA credit rating within a year after Moodys put it on negative watch amid fears of contagion from the European debt crisis. Moodys, which changed the rating of nine European sovereigns after the markets closed in America, said Britain was exposed to any further deterioration in European economic conditions and financial landscape.

Ernst & Young warns lending to business to contract in 2012: Bank lending to business shrank in 2011 despite attempts by the government to push banks to lend more and is expected to contract further this year, according to Ernst & Young.

GE invests half a billion dollars in jet-engine business: General Electric plans to invest more than half a billion dollars to expand its jet-engine business in America, the latest shot in the arm for the countrys manufacturing sector. The $580 million (368 million) investment includes a factory in Auburn, Alabama that, according to GE, will employ up to 400 people when its completed. Another factory in Ellisville, Mississippi will be up and running by the end of the year and employ about 250 people.

Heathrow Owners warn of capacity crunch: The Owners of Heathrow have issued a new warning about the future of the airport after air traffic to China fell during January despite the countrys growing economic importance. BAA said a "capacity crunch" at Heathrow is "harming U.K. growth" because overseas business leaders are reluctant to invest in this country when there is a lack of direct flights.

Kuwaits central bank Boss Sheikh Salem Abdulaziz Al Sabah quits after criticising state: The Governor of the Central Bank of Kuwait has quit after more than 25 years in his post amid apparent disagreements with the governments spending policies. The resignation of Sheikh Salem Abdulaziz Al Sabah was announced in a one-sentence official statement with no further explanation.

The Guardian

Retailers report strong finish to 2011: The trade body that represents more than 7,500 independent retailers will report a strong finish to 2011 on Tuesday. The British Independent Retailers Association says a survey found 56% of its members had higher sales in the final quarter, the highest for four years.

Banks miss Project Merlin lending targets to small business: The Chancellor is facing calls to accelerate his 20 billion credit easing programme after figures from the Bank of England showed a 9.6 billion contraction in business lending in 2011, despite the Project Merlin agreement with the banks.

David Cameron backs new car insurance rules to cut cost of premiums: The Prime Minister is to agree to introduce new rules to cut the 2 billion cost of whiplash insurance claims in the motor industry, saying Britain had become the whiplash capital of Europe which is inflating premiums by 90 on average.

Oleg Deripaska accuses rival bringing 1.6 billion suit of running protection racket: Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch close to financier Nat Rothschild and Lord Mandelson, has accused his rival Michael Cherney of bribing politicians and masterminding a protection racket. The allegations emerged in Londons high court on Monday where Deripaska looked to bolster his defence against a 1.6 billion suit brought by Cherney by painting the claimant as a leader of an organised crime ring.

Apple shares hit record high above $500: Apples shares broke above $500 for the first time on Monday. It was the latest step in a rally that began more than two weeks ago, when the company reported staggering sales and profits for the holiday quarter.

Daily Mail

National Association of Pension Funds tells banks to show restraint over pay: One of Britains most powerful investor lobby groups waded into the debate on bonuses by calling on banks to show more restraint. The National Association of Pension Funds which represents assets worth almost 800 billion is the latest to join the growing backlash over excess rewards and perks.

RBS to escape censure despite missing government targets for lending to struggling small businesses: Royal Bank of Scotland will escape censure despite missing government targets for lending to struggling small businesses. Bank of England figures confirmed British banks fell 1.1 billion short of their 76 billion lending target for 2011, set under Project Merlin.

Pizza Hut looking for new Owners to revamp over 200 U.K. restaurants: Pizza Hut is looking for new Owners to revamp over 200 U.K. restaurants to turn around the fortunes of the business. The 700-strong chain hopes modern concept restaurants, like the one recently opened in Solihull, will fight back against more successful groups such as PizzaExpress or Nandos.

Broker Views:

SABMiller: Credit Suisse initiated the stock with Outperform rating and a target price of 2900.00p

Globo: Daniel Stewart & Co maintained a Buy rating on the stock, with a target price of 100.00p

Metminco Ltd: Singer Capital Markets maintained a Buy rating on the stock, with a target price of 30.00p

ZincOx Resources: Singer Capital Markets maintained a Buy rating on the stock, with a target price of 128.00p

Highland Gold Mining Ltd:
Numis Securities Ltd upgraded the stock to Buy and increased the target price to 220.00p

Societe Generale downgraded the stock to Hold and decreased the target price to 250.00p

Daily Express

BA asks EU for clearance in bid to land bmi: British Airways Owner IAG asked EU competition regulators to clear its takeover of bmi. The EU said it would make a decision on whether to approve the 172 million deal by 16 March. IAG, headed by Chief Executive Willie Walsh, wants to take over bmi from Lufthansa to gain access to its valuable runway slots at Heathrow.

Vodafone eyes Cable: Mobile phone giant Vodafone was dialling up a possible 700 million takeover bid for Cable & Wireless Worldwide, sending shares in the troubled telecoms supplier surging. Vodafone said it regularly reviews opportunities in the telecoms sector and was in the very early stages of evaluating the merits of a potential offer for Cable & Wireless Worldwide. It must make a firm offer by 12 March or walk away.

Markets and Euro rally on Greek hopes: Stock markets rallied and the Euro strengthened as the Greek parliaments approval of austerity measures required to secure a second bailout and stave off bankruptcy was cautiously welcomed by investors. The FTSE 100 Index closed up 53.31 points at 5905.7, having earlier hit a six-month high of 5920.

Roman Abramovich goes for gold: Roman Abramovich is set to up his stake in Russian miner Highland Gold through his investment firm Millhouse Capital. A 20% stake, worth around 108 million, is being sold by Canadas Barrick Gold as it focuses on projects in the U.S. and Latin America. Shares in Aim-listed Highland, which last month missed its 2011 production target because of operational hitches, fell 63/4p to 163p.

The Scotsman

Lawyers cut costs to maximise profits as firms face pressure: Profits at Scotlands law firms have risen for the first time since the financial crisis but the headline figure masks tough times for the smallest and largest practices. Average profit per equity partner across all sizes of firm rose to 71,000 in 2011 from 64,000 in 2010.

McColl sells another business in multi-million pound deal: Scottish tycoon Jim McColl has sold another of his businesses, Swiss pumps business Maag Group, in a deal likely to be worth hundreds of millions of pounds. Clyde Blowers Capital, McColls investment vehicle, said it had agreed to sell the business to U.S. rival Dover Corporation.

Scottish air passenger numbers decline as Edinburgh sale nears: Passenger numbers at both Edinburgh and Glasgow airports fell last month despite overall figures across BAAs U.K. operations rising, according to traffic statistics released. Numbers using Edinburgh airport dropped by 4.4% year-on-year to 557,400, blamed on an expected dip in the airports winter schedule.

Business calls for new approach after banks miss lending targets: Business leaders called for a different approach on lending practices after official figures confirmed that Britains biggest banks fell more than 1 billion short of their SME loan targets.

New deal is far from a car crash: Accident Claims Scotland (ACS), the Paisley-based car crash management firm, has signed a deal with an English peer that it expects will add at least 50% to its turnover. Vehicle Accident Managers has chosen the firm to handle all its accident and personal injury claims north of the Border.

Positive global news helps FTSE to bounce back: The Footsie surged back through the 5,900 barrier after a report from an influential think tank raised hopes that the global recovery had reached a positive turning point. Economic optimism in Japan and the United States has driven a tentative improvement in the international outlook, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD).

Survey signals hope for troubled U.K. commercial property sector: Surveyors have detected glimmers of confidence in the embattled commercial property market as sentiment for the coming months turned positive for the first time in eight months, research has found.

Norwegian field fails to deliver: Faroe Petroleum provided a disappointing update from one of its prospects in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. The company said it had failed to find oil at the Kalvklumpen well but added that data gathered during the drilling process would help its progress with other prospects in the area.

Sparkling: Aurum is the jeweller in the crown: The Owner of jewellery businesses including Goldsmiths and Mappin & Webb has defied lacklustre conditions to unveil a 53% hike in profits. Aurum Holdings said the launch of exclusive brands such as Canadian Ice and Biba boosted Goldsmiths, while its Watches of Switzerland division benefited from the launch of its new transactional website.

Tenancies disputes a poison claims union Chief Miller: The importance of the tenanted sector to Scottish agriculture and the rise in disputes between landlord and farmer was foremost in the mind of National Farmers Union of Scotland President Nigel Miller.

Concern over government targets for planting woodland across Scotland: The Scottish Government target of planting an additional 100,000 hectares within the next decade could be achieved but it was not helpful to say this would be met by an annual target of 10,000 hectares. Andrew Barbour, who heads up the Scottish Woodlands Group, was speaking to the annual meeting of NFU Scotland.

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