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Wednesday Papers: Gazprom tightens noose on Ukraine

Wednesday Papers: Gazprom tightens noose on Ukraine

Top stories

  • Financial Times: George Osborne has attacked the Financial Conduct Authority over its bungled announcement of a probe into the insurance industry, warning that the episode damaged the City of London’s reputation.
  • The Daily Telegraph: Federal agents are investigating high-frequency traders as new book reveals high-tech trading tactics they use to make huge profits.
  • The Daily Telegraph: Russia’s Gazprom has begun to tighten the noose on Ukraine, raising the cost of gas deliveries by 44% and threatening to claw back billions of dollars of previous discounts.
  • The Guardian: Major investors could face huge losses if they continue to be complacent about the impact of rising interest rates on their riskier trades, the Bank of England's financial policy committee has warned.
  • The Independent: A US judge has ruled shareholders can can sue JPMorgan Chase for securities fraud over the activities of the “London whale” trader in which the US bank lost $6.2 billion (£3.7 billion).
  • The Independent: The stronger pound is hurting efforts to drive an export-led recovery as manufacturers’ overseas orders grew at their most sluggish pace for almost a year in March.
  • Financial Times: Meagre growth in workers’ hourly output has highlighted Britain’s dire productivity as output per hour rose 0.3% between the third and fourth quarters of last year, as the economy expanded slightly faster than the number of hours people worked.

Business and economics

  • Financial Times: Private medical insurers are offering customers cash handouts of up to £2,000 to encourage them to use the NHS for operations instead of private hospitals.
  • Financial Times: Goldman Sachs is leaving the floor of the New York Stock Exchange by selling its “designated market-maker” unit.
  • Financial Times: Bill Gross’s Total Return bond fund, the largest fixed income mutual fund in the world, was beaten by 94% of its rivals in March.
  • Financial Times: The British car industry has set out its overwhelming opposition to a UK exit from the EU with a report detailing the potential damage to the £60 billion sector.
  • Financial Times: George Osborne’s enterprise zones are set to deliver only a fifth of the jobs and companies that were originally anticipated, according to Whitehall’s independent forecasters.
  • Financial Times: Private schools contribute £11.7 billion to Britain each year, making them more significant for the country’s gross domestic product than the BBC or Liverpool’s economy, analysis shows.
  • Financial Times: Steve Jobs warned Apple’s leadership a year before his death that the company he founded faced an “innovator’s dilemma” over the growing threat from Google and promised a “holy war” on smartphones running its Android software.
  • Financial Times: BHP Billiton is considering spinning off its nickel, manganese, and aluminium businesses into a separate unit as a way to boost shareholder returns amid an industry-wide drive to increase efficiency.
  • Financial Times: A leading US law firm has opened a practice in London to advise activist hedge funds amid signs that American funds could increase assaults on companies in the UK and continental Europe.
  • Financial Times: UK Coal is appealing for government support to stave off a collapse that would cost 2,000 jobs; the largest coal miner in Britain was rescued last year by the Pension Protection Fund, which preserves the pensions of employees whose companies go bust.
  • Financial Times: China Cosco, which eked out a profit of Rmb235 million ($38 million) for 2013 after losing more than Rmb20bn combined in 2011 and 2012, was bailed out by a series of asset sales to its parent company, does not mean the tide is turning for the country’s heavy industry sector.
  • Financial Times: Telefónica will connect all Tesla cars in Europe to the internet, in the latest of a string of deals as telecoms providers muscle in on the fast-growing connected car market.
  • Financial Times: Two powerful regulators are squeezing Telefónica to yield valuable spectrum holdings if it wants to see through its contentious takeover of E-Plus in Germany.
  • Financial Times: Shares of Springleaf dropped precipitously on Tuesday after the subprime consumer lender said it had found a “material weakness” in the way it accounts for its holdings of complex mortgage bonds and derivatives.
  • Financial Times: US Republicans used an investigation into Caterpillar’s tax strategy on Tuesday to highlight problems with US corporate tax rules.
  • Financial Times: Ecobank Transnational’s new chief executive says he will focus on consolidating the bank’s 35-country network across Africa and maximising returns as he seeks to calm nerves following a bruising nine-month dispute over governance issues.
  • Financial Times: Hong Kong and New Zealand have joined other leading regulators by launching full investigations into local banks’ possible manipulation of the foreign exchange markets, adding to the escalation of global probes.
  • Financial Times: FCC has won backing from its banks to refinance more than €4.5 billion of debt, the latest in a series of moves by the Spanish construction group to shake off the toxic legacy of the country’s recent housing bust and recession.
  • Financial Times: A defeat for the government in Europe’s highest court has paved the way for over £1 billion of tax losses racked up by Three, the mobile phone company owned by Hutchison Whampoa, to be offset against the tax bills of its other UK businesses.
  • Financial Times: Marks & Spencer said on Tuesday that it planned to open 250 stores outside the UK in the next three years, as it is aiming to increase international sales by 25%, and international profits by 40% by 2017.
  • Financial Times: Babcock International has scored its second big contract win in two days, nailing a deal worth about £800 million to manage the London Fire Brigade’s 500 vehicles for the next 21 years.
  • Financial Times: Aberdeen Asset Management offered welcome relief to shareholders as its chief executive declared the worst was over in terms of the emerging market outflows that have dogged the investment group for months.
  • Financial Times: ICAP, the world’s largest interdealer broker, said more fund managers were becoming its customers as financial regulation creates “a permanent change in the industrial landscape”.
  • Financial Times: Rathbone Brothers has boosted its assets under management by £2.8 billion with two acquisitions, as the British wealth manager seeks to rapidly grow its share of the UK’s private banking market.
  • Financial Times: Bwin.party has called on activist shareholder Jason Ader to press on with appointing his representative to the board of the online gambling company but denied it was concerned about his intentions.
  • Financial Times: Colin Matthews, chief executive of Heathrow, is to step down after six years.
  • Financial Times: A British urban regeneration scheme has landed £8.3 million funding from Wellesley & Co, the largest loan issued by a peer-to-peer (P2P) platform.
  • Financial Times: BT has agreed to make its sports channels available via Google’s Chromecast, in a move that reduces its dependence on the much criticised YouView television platform.
  • Financial Times: Royal Dutch Shell has said it will deploy more Chinese equipment at its struggling US shale business - becoming the latest natural resources company to try to reduce costs by switching to cheaper Asian suppliers.
  • Financial Times: Wells Fargo, the biggest US bank by market capitalisation, announced on Tuesday a management reshuffle that may help to groom Tim Sloan as the next chief executive of the country’s biggest home lender.
  • Financial Times: Russia has threatened to retaliate against US diplomatic missions after JPMorgan Chase blocked a money transfer from a Russian embassy, in the clearest political fallout so far from sanctions imposed over the annexation of Crimea last month.
  • The Independent: Vince Cable shrugged off calls to resign over the controversial Royal Mail privatisation as he hit back at accusations that the business was sold on the cheap.
  • The Independent: The European boss of US-based Delta Air Lines has called for the expansion of Heathrow over Gatwick airport, saying: “business travellers prefer it.”
  • The Independent: Payday lenders could be forced out of business as the industry faces up to tougher regulation, according to the head of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
  • The Guardian: Prudential's eight directors on its board were paid a total of £47 million in 2013 – up sharply from the £38 million paid to the top seven executives in 2012.
  • The Guardian: Rents on properties in prime central London dropped by 2.3% in 2013.
  • The Guardian: Mary Barra, the embattled chief executive of General Motors, appeared before Congress on Tuesday replete with apologies but offering few explanations for the car giant’s years-long failure to fix a ignition-switch defect linked to 13 deaths.
  • The Daily Telegraph: Lord Mandelson believes working with Europe can end Russia's 'divide and rule' tactics on gas pricing.
  • The Daily Telegraph: UK foreign reserves rank 24th in the world at just $70 billion, Deutsche Bank research shows.
  • Daily Mail: Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg has sold more than half her shares in the company since it listed two years ago, fuelling speculation she could be preparing to leave.

Share tips, comment and bids

  • Financial Times: Weir Group has approached Finnish rival Metso over a multibillion pound merger that would make the FTSE 100 engineer part of a global group with a strong presence in mining equipment.
  • Financial Times: Alstom, the French train and power-equipment manufacturer, has agreed to sell its steam auxiliary components business to private equity firm Triton for a higher-than-expected €730 million.
  • Financial Times: Bouygues, the French construction and telecoms conglomerate, has made a renewed attempt to buy Vivendi’s SFR telecoms unit by extending the deadline of its offer and including a €500 million break-up fee.
  • Financial Times: Louis Dreyfus Commodities is taking steps to ensure that it is ready for either a stock market listing or a partial sale to a strategic investor, as one of the world’s largest food trading houses navigates a fast changing landscape for natural resources.
  • Financial Times: Archer Daniels Midland may increase its stake in GrainCorp after the Australian government blocked its bid for the grain trader late last year.
  • Financial Times (Lex): Bristol-Myers Squibb: group’s valuation rests on select band of experimental drugs.
  • The Guardian (Comments): The recent trends of manufacturing and productivity data suggests some cooling in the pace of expansion since the second half of 2013, that's a potential headache for the Bank of England, which is banking on a pick-up in productivity to keep the lid on inflation.
  • Financial Times (Lex): BHP Billiton: possible demerger of unwanted assets feels like a time warp.
  • Financial Times (Lex): Weir Group: deal with Metso would make sense, although shareholders might question timing.
  • Financial Times (Lex): OCBC / Wing Hang: fast growing, and capital light, business in Asia.
  • Financial Times (Lex): General Motors: financial hit from recalls may not be as bad as feared.

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