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Sunday newspaper round-up: Retail M&A, Unilever, Brexit trade deal, bitcoin, Apple

By Digital Look

Date: Sunday 10 Dec 2017

Sunday newspaper round-up: Retail M&A, Unilever, Brexit trade deal, bitcoin, Apple

(ShareCast News) - The City is beginning to talk excitedly about the prospect of a flurry of deals in UK retail as many of the big names seriously struggle, with the tipping being the expected green light for Tesco's takeover of wholesaler Booker. A tie-up between Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's is one, but senior retailers insist almost anything is possible in the current climate, involving Next, Morrisons, Asda or the long-rumoured merger of Debenhams and House of Fraser. - Sunday Telegraph
British stock markets are on track to be the worst performer in the developed world this year, as analysts warn that record-breaking levels in the US could crash in 2018. After a bumper 2016 when the UK's biggest 100 stocks climbed 14pc in value, the FTSE 100 has eked out a measly 3.5pc gain in 2017 while the Dow Jones in New York and DAX in Frankfurt soared 23pc and 15pc respectively in a global bull market. - Sunday Telegraph

Flora margarine is on the verge of changing hands as bidders prepare to submit formal offers for Unilever's £6bn spreads business. City bankers said Unilever's financial advisers have set a deadline of early this week for final offers for the division, which also includes Bertolli olive oil, Stork and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. - Sunday Times

BREXIT CORNER

Theresa May's hopes of securing a unique post-Brexit trade deal with the EU were under threat on Saturday night as Brussels said it was coming under international pressure to deny Britain special treatment. After a week that saw May reach a deal with the EU that will allow Brexit talks to move forward on to future trade relations, EU officials insisted a bespoke deal more favourable to the UK than other non-EU nations was out of the question. - Observer

David Davis has said the last-minute deal Theresa May struck in talks with the EU on Friday is not "legally enforceable". Appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, the Brexit secretary appeared to contradict Chancellor Philip Hammond, who previously said it was "inconceivable" the UK would fail to honour its international obligations. - Standard

...Britain should sign a "Canada-plus plus plus" trade deal with the European Union after Brexit, Davis also said. The Exiting the European Union secretary said that he thought a substantive trade deal can be struck within a year. - Sunday Telegraph

Jeremy Corbyn will be put on the spot over his Brexit plans this week when a Liberal Democrat attempt to keep Britain in the single market is put to a vote in parliament. The Lib Dems have tabled an amendment to the Brexit withdrawal bill which calls on the government to keep open the option of remaining in the single market after Brexit. - Sunday Times

Theresa May is facing her first Commons defeat on her Brexit bill within days, amid a last-minute plea to pro-European Tories to force a "truly meaningful vote" on Britain's final EU deal. Leading Tory rebels believe they have a real chance of securing the measure, with party whips also said to be worried that they cannot prevent an embarrassing defeat for the prime minister before she heads off to Brussels for a historic EU summit. - Observer

Britain has signed a landmark airline deal with China in what ministers claim is the first of a series of open skies agreements to boost trade and tourism after Brexit. The number of direct flights from the UK to the world's most populous country is set to rise by 50% to 150 per week - with a huge expansion in routes from regional airports expected to help cities outside London. - Sunday Times

Britain's car industry is braced for an unwanted Christmas present with foreign workers failing to return to their jobs after the festive break. The UK's £77.5bn a year automotive sector relies on European staff both on car production lines and in factories making components for vehicles. - Sunday Telegraph

TECH TONICS

One of the world's biggest bitcoin exchanges has warned that its systems may collapse if there is a run on the digital currency, leaving investors unable to cash out their holdings. Brian Armstrong, the chief executive of Coinbase, said fears of wild swings in the value had led the platform to restrict how much customers can sell - "to protect client accounts and assets". - Sunday Times

Uber will head to court on Monday to fight its London ban, kicking off the first of two crucial legal battles over the next fortnight. The US ride-hailing app is appealing Transport for London (TfL)'s controversial decision to strip the company of its private hire licence in September, a move that effectively banned Uber from the capital. - Sunday Telegraph

Airbnb is closing in on a $1bn takeover of a clutch of upmarket British holiday operators, tightening the Silicon Valley giant's grip over the global travel market. In what would be its biggest takeover deal to date, the room-sharing website is leading a pack of bidders for brands including Hoseasons, the 70-year-old camping business that started in the Norfolk Broads. It would also include James Villa Holidays and cottages.com, plus dozens of other brands letting homes in Greece, Croatia and Italy. - Sunday Times

Apple is poised to swallow up the music recognition app Shazam for a mooted £300m - far below the UK tech darling's top valuation. The deal could be unveiled as soon as this week, with Shazam joining the growing ranks of home-grown technology firms snapped up by overseas buyers. - Sunday Times

Hedge funds are still ramping up bets against Ocado despite the online grocer finally stepping up its long-awaited international expansion. Ahead of a trading statement on Thursday, hedge funds have continued to hold Ocado's feet to the fire as its shares soared 52pc last week after it revealed a partnership with French retail giant Casino. - Sunday Telegraph

LSE, PETROFAC, ASTRA

The City is rallying round the under-fire chairman of the London Stock Exchange as a bitter battle with hedge fund tycoon Sir Christopher Hohn nears the final stage. A number of large blue-chip investors have this weekend told The Sunday Telegraph that they plan to vote in favour of Donald Brydon keeping his job.

Embattled oil services company Petrofac is considering quitting the North Sea as it struggles under a $1bn debt mountain and a fraud investigation. The company, which has an army of about 4,000 North Sea workers and a base in Aberdeen, has hired consultants from Bain & Co to explore options for the division, including a sale. - Sunday Times

The Home Office is poised to award G4S a lucrative contract to run an immigration detention centre - even though the security firm's management of the scandal-hit facility is the subject of serious allegations of drug use, violence and bullying. Sources said the company is in pole position to be awarded the £150 million contract for Brook House, near Gatwick, once again, after it came up for renewal earlier this year. - Mail on Sunday

The crisis engulfing South African magnate Christo Wiese has escalated after a leading credit agency slashed its rating on his New Look fashion chain deep into junk territory, a week after an accounting scandal emerged at Steinhoff International, the listed South African retailer that counts Wiese as its largest shareholder. Wiese, who controls New Look through his Brait investment fund, could struggle to re-finance the Weymouth-based retailer, according to experts. - Sunday Times

British drug giants AstraZeneca and GSK have stepped up their fightback in the global race to find cures for blood cancers after two key clinical trials showed encouraging results. The FTSE 100 duo are presenting findings on the effectiveness of their medicines at a leading blood cancer event in Atlanta this weekend, with initial results showing improved survival rates. - Sunday Telegraph

House of Fraser has been branded a "very high credit risk" by ratings agency Moody's in a further sign of the retailer's fragile position. The department store chain, owned by China's Sanpower, led by cigar-loving Yuan Yafei, above, has reported weak trading in the first three quarters, leading Moody's to slash its rating from B3 to Caa1 - "poor-quality" territory. - Sunday Times

Troubled care homes operator Four Seasons could reach a breakthrough with its biggest creditor, the investment firm H/2 Capital Partners on Monday, sources suggested. An announcement on the £26 million interest payment due next week was likely to be made on Monday, according to reports. - Sunday Telegraph

A biotech minnow that makes key components for some of the world's biggest drugmakers is listing on AIM in a £18.5m float. Fusion Antibodies, which was spun out of Queen's University Belfast 16 years ago, will become the third Northern Irish company listed on the London markets when it goes public on December 18, raising £5m. - Sunday Times



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