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Friday Paper Round, part 1

Tips and comments from today's papers.



* Astra Zeneca’s hopes for strong earnings recovery in 2004 rest on its ability to launch drugs without costs overruns in a increasingly competitive market

* Spanish bank BBVA's wishes to resume acquisitions in areas such as Germany and Portugal does not inspire confidence

* More and more Canon teaches us the unconventional lesson that is possible to be a Japanese electronics manufacturer and still do well

Other comment:

* Low & Bonar has adopted the ‘golden goodbye’ code of the National Association of Pension Funds and it should work much better than MP Archie Norman’s (p 23)

* Re the contemptuous comments of Nasdaq’s vice-chairman Alfred Berkeley about Europe’s ‘old thinking’: wasn’t it the Europeans who saw off a feeble attempt by Nasdaq to enter their markets?

* Sing a song to the tune of "The wheels on the bus" to tell us of Tim Waterstone’s unceasing wish to buy back his old book shop for not enough pennies to please owner HMV

* Rio Tinto – has a slight, and deserved, premium p/e to the sector (p 22)

* Cinven is poised to bid for Fitness First. Shareholders expect the latter to come up with a dividend at some point (p 24)


* Astra Zeneca – buy

* Rio Tinto – worth holding

* Crest Nicholson – buy

Other comment:

* Nasdaq’s engines of growth may have backfired now that the high-tech market has cracked and shares on the index have lost two-thirds of their value (p 40)



* Rio Tinto - hold

* Astra Zeneca - hold

* Fitness First – buy



* The UK aircraft carrier deal: the defence secretary should have followed the advice of the MOD and awarded the lead role to Thales, it would have been good for competition

* Every private sector monopoly in Britain is subject to price controls from a regulator. The stock exchange seems to require the same thing
It is time that Chelsea Village, which owns the football team, be brought to heel. It is time the firm was de-listed from the stock exchange.



* The eventual decision of the government to award the aircraft carriers contract to BAE Systems (with the design going to Thales) - seems to reflect a concern for the 10,000 jobs at stake rather than good value for the taxpayer

* Few sectors can boast similar long term strength as have the banking sector

* Public trust in the life insurance industry has been shot to bits - the rules need to be profoundly re-thought in the future


* Gordon Brown has some harsh taxation and spending decisions to make if he wants to preserve the fiscal stability that has been the hallmark of his time at the Treasury

* If the messy compromise over the carrier contracts turns out to be a financial and technical disaster then the defence secretary must be ready to take the blame

* Not a good week for KPMG, accountant for drugs group Elan. The firm has shocked the market by revealing it will have to take further charge of £329 million in the fourth quarter


* The Consumer Affairs minister yesterday announced changes to stop lenders get customers into debt: a case of action after the horse has bolted

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