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Thursday Papers: AstraZeneca hits at Pfizer ‘big is better’ bid

Thursday Papers: AstraZeneca hits at Pfizer ‘big is better’ bid

Top stories

  • Financial Times: AstraZeneca warned that “bigger is not always better” as it launched its defence against Pfizer’s £60 billion approach, but some of the UK pharmaceutical company’s biggest shareholders signalled they would be open to a takeover at the right price.
  • The Guardian: The US economic recovery slowed to a crawl in the first quarter of 2014 as a frigid winter appeared to have taken its toll on business; the gross domestic product increased by a seasonally adjusted annual rate of just 0.1% in the first quarter; meanwhile, Federal Reserve cut its economic stimulus programme, saying the recovery was now back on track.
  • Financial Times: Lazard Assset Management, the investment arm of the government’s independent adviser on the privatisation of Royal Mail, made an £8 million profit selling shares in the company during the first week of trading; Lazard’s bankers faced criticism from MPs after it was disclosed that Lazard Asset Management had been allocated 6 million of the 13 million shares reserved for the banks advising on the deal.
  • The Daily Telegraph: Serco has launched £170 million worth fundraising on back of third profit warning while chief financial officer Andrew Jenner has decided to step down as company warns on fate of dividend on the eve of new CEO Rupert Soames' arrival.
  • The Guardian: Poor management, bad lending, a flawed culture and an overambitious drive for growth contributed to the problems at the Co-operative Bank, according to a scathing report which has concluded that the bank should never have merged with the Britannia Building Society five years ago.
  • Financial Times: Rio Tinto is suing Vale and BSG Resources, alleging the rival mining groups were part of a conspiracy to steal its rights to a vast African iron ore deposit worth billions of dollars.
  • Financial Times: Richard Desmond is set to sell UK broadcaster Channel 5 for £450 million to US group Viacom, in a move that will see him receive more than four times his initial investment.

Business and economics

  • Financial Times: The former head of Credit Suisse’s private bank for the Americas told government investigators he had clashed with superiors about the bank’s disclosures to a tax evasion probe; the claim suggests there was disagreement at senior levels of Credit Suisse over its handling of an investigation for which it has set aside almost $1 billion for legal provisions.
  • Financial Times: Unions and politicians have called for action to curb employment on a “zero-hours” basis after official data showed that UK employers are using about 1.4 million contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours.
  • Financial Times: George Osborne’s bid to shield the City of London from EU rules has suffered its second blow this year, after a court threw out a UK suit against eurozone plans for a tax on financial transactions.
  • Financial Times: A leading Bank of England official has warned that Britain’s housing market poses the biggest threat to its financial stability.
  • Financial Times: Ladbrokes said it would “inevitably” have to consider closing more shops because of increased tax on digital betting machines announced in the Budget, and mounting political pressure to curb their use.
  • Financial Times: The International Monetary Fund has drastically cut its growth forecast for Russia for the second time in less than a month as the Ukraine crisis weighs on already weak investment.
  • Financial Times: The International Monetary Fund has signed off on a $17 billion rescue package for Ukraine that represents a massive bet on the country’s future political stability.
  • Financial Times: The Bank of Japan has cut its growth forecast for the current fiscal year by more than a fifth, citing “structural” weakness in exports and fears that the April 1 consumption tax rise will drag on demand.
  • Financial Times: Royal Dutch Shell’s shares rose the most in more than two years after the oil major announced first-quarter results that came in well ahead of market expectations, buoyed by higher earnings in its natural gas business.
  • Financial Times: Next, the high street clothes retailer, said profits this year would be higher than forecast just a month ago after a strong first quarter.
  • Financial Times: Total said first-quarter profit fell 10% on lower production and a decline in European refining margins.
  • Financial Times: Microsoft’s Xbox One is set to become the first foreign games console to go on sale in China, after a 14-year ban on the devices was lifted in January.
  • Financial Times: Rosneft has accumulated a $20 billion “safety net” of cash on its balance sheet in order to reduce its dependence on international markets as foreign banks and investors shun Russian companies.
  • Financial Times: US authorities are weighing criminal charges against BNP Paribas over possible violations of sanction rules as the Paris-based lender said that the eventual fine could be “far in excess” of the $1.1 billion already provisioned.
  • Financial Times: Temasek and RRJ have agreed to to take a stake worth €1.3 billion in ING’s Europe and Japan insurance arm as it gears up for a stock market launch, which is set to rank among Europe’s biggest flotations of the year.
  • Financial Times: Stephen Elop received a bigger-than-expected pay-off of €24.2 million from Nokia despite the former chief executive presiding over a dramatic decline in market capitalisation, revenues and profits at the Finnish technology group.
  • Financial Times: The box office success of The Lego Movie and global demand for its Game of Thrones HBO series propelled Time Warner to beat expectations in the first quarter.
  • Financial Times: The UK’s car market boom will end this year, Renault’s European head has predicted, ending a crucial source of growth for the continent’s carmakers.
  • Financial Times: Shares in Thorntons fell almost 20% on Wednesday morning after a spring trading update from the Derbyshire chocolatier revealed a big drop in sales.
  • Financial Times: BT will maintain pressure on rival BSkyB by offering free sports coverage to its broadband customers for another year, although its pay-TV platform has grown only modestly following heavy investment in sports rights.
  • Financial Times: Martin Sorrell is again facing criticism from large shareholders in his marketing services group WPP, after it emerged that his pay had risen by more than two-thirds last year to £30 million.
  • Financial Times: Greggs, the UK’s biggest bakery retailer, has said a greater focus on sandwiches and coffee for busy workers helped to improve its like-for-like sales by nearly 4% in the past few months.
  • Financial Times: Home Retail Group will expand its “digital” concept stores – where iPads have replaced its catalogues – as the Argos-owner attempts to benefit from an accelerating shift into online shopping.
  • Daily Mail: The pound powered to a fresh five-year high against the dollar last night as the US economy dropped further behind the UK.
  • The Guardian: The Bank of England is formally reviewing whether it should keep and publish transcripts of monetary policy committee meetings, in what would be a big departure from tradition; the Bank has appointed Kevin Warsh, a former US central banker at the Federal Reserve, to consider whether permanent records of the interest rate-setting meetings should be made and released after a number of years.
  • The Guardian: A supermarket price war is moving a step closer as struggling Morrisons slashes the price of more than 1,200 products in an attempt to regain customers lost to cheaper discount chains.
  • The Guardian: British internet-of-things startup Evrythng has secured a $7 million Series A round, including investment both financial and in-kind from US networking giant Cisco.
  • The Guardian: Radical changes to give people more freedom over how they use their retirement savings have not dealt a "death blow" to sales of annuities, according to the pensions minister, Steve Webb.
  • The Guardian: Almost 20,000 homebuyers bought new-build properties worth a total of £4bn assisted in the first year of the government's Help to Buy scheme, figures showed on Wednesday, as the latest Land Registry data showed a dip in house prices in March.
  • The Independent: The consumer-led recovery is picking up speed and helping to drive the economy back up towards its previous peak, official data showed yesterday.
  • The Daily Telegraph: Solar farm subsidies are likely to be cut under plans to curb the spread of panels across the countryside.
  • The Daily Telegraph: Top Bank of England policymaker Andy Haldane says inflation measure that includes housing costs would be "conceptually and practically more useful".
  • The Daily Telegraph: A senior official of the Kurdistan region of Iraq has said the authorities will auction off 1.5 million barrels of crude oil held at a storage point in Turkey on Friday in defiance of threats from Baghdad.

Share tips, comment and bids

  • Financial Times: Reckitt Benckiser is no longer in talks to buy Merck’s consumer healthcare division, paving the way for a rival to land the business behind Coppertone sun tan lotion.
  • Financial Times: British American Tobacco has become the latest victim of unfavourable exchange rates in emerging markets, after revenues slumped 12% despite robust sales volumes for the first quarter of the year.
  • Financial Times: Saga is preparing to offer up to half the shares in its planned London listing to retail investors in what is shaping up to be one of the biggest ever allocations to the public in a UK stock market launch.
  • Financial Times: Heritage Oil has agreed a £924 million cash takeover offer from a Qatari investment vehicle owned by the gas-rich Gulf state’s former prime minister.
  • Financial Times: Volkswagen has failed to persuade sufficient shareholders of truckmaker Scania to accept its takeover offer at the first attempt but has extended the acceptance deadline in the belief it will still creep to victory.
  • Financial Times: The chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline all but ruled out a white knight bid by the UK pharmaceuticals company for AstraZeneca by reiterating scepticism on big takeover deals in the sector.
  • Financial Times: Virgin Media is lining up the sale of its non-cable broadband business in the UK as the telecoms-to-TV group aims to consolidate a strategy to make all internet services high speed.
  • Financial Times (Lex): Miners: digging in.
  • Financial Times (Lex): Time Warner: hit maker.
  • Financial Times (Lex): Nomura: a new normal?
  • Financial Times (Lex): BNP Paribas: between the lines.
  • Financial Times (Lex): Exelon: nuclear option.
  • Financial Times (Comment): Barclays move to carve out bad bank is bold statement of intent.
  • The Guardian (Comment): China's economy overtaking the US does not tell the whole story.
  • The Daily Telegraph (Comment): Britain should leave the EU if Europe's judges trample on our basic protections.

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