Top City fund managers have backed a bid for 315 Royal Bank of Scotland branches, the Sunday Times reported. W&G Investments, which is expected to float in the week starting August 19th released a document showing 13 fund managers and hedge funds will own more than 3% of the shares. They include Schroder Investment Management, Threadneedle, Lansdowne, Canaccord, Aviva, Franklin, Toscafund, Old Mutual, Jupiter and Invesco. W&G, led by former Tesco finance director Andy Higginson will raise £15m in the float to finance preparation for a bid expected to be about £1.5bn.
RBS could miss the end-of-2013 deadline to sell its branches by more than two years, the Mail on Sunday reported. Bidder W&G Investments has warned that the sale, known as Project Rainbow, could drag on until 2016. W&G said: "It is possible that separation will not be achieved within the two-year period currently contemplated." W&G also said it had set a four-year deadline after which RBS would have to repay any money W&G had put down.
Leading housebuilders will reveal surging profits after the Government's Help to Buy scheme boosted sales, the Mail on Sunday said. Persimmon and Bovis Homes are expected to report first-half profits up by 33 per cent and 20 per cent respectively in the week starting August 19th. The results will show the first sign of an increase from Help to Buy, which is designed to help homebuyers with small deposits. Gavin Jago, an analyst at stockbroker Shore Capital, said up to a third of housebuilders' sales since April came from Help to Buy, which critics say is stoking a new housing bubble.
Shire, the pharmaceutical giant, has hired Lazard to bolster its advisers against a potential takeover bid from the US, the Sunday Times reported. Lazard's hiring followed an informal approach from Bristol-Myers Squibb, which was rebuffed. The investment bank will work alongside Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank to devise responses if a formal bid happens. Shire's shares
have climbed 26% this year amid recurring takeover rumours and the company expects further approaches, the paper said.
Tesco plans to take on Apple and Amazon by launching its own tablet computer to win back UK shoppers, the Sunday Times said. The gadget is set to go on sale in time for Christmans and will have pre-loaded books, films and music. It will also have apps for Tesco's digital grocery and banking products and Blinkbox, its internet film and music service. Tesco wants to thwart gains made by Apple and Amazon at the expense of its books and DVD sales in recent years.
Lloyds Banking Group is preparing to sell its German insurance arm at a knock-down price to cut back its international operations, the Sunday Telegraph said. The bank is in talks to sell Heidelberger Leben to Germany's Hannover Re for up to €400m (£341m), less than half the price it was seeking two years ago. Lloyds has been forced to do a deal quickly because of regulatory pressures to increase capital.
Surveyors have predicted a 40% jump in London house prices in the next five years, adding to fears that government actions are fuelling a property bubble, the Sunday Times said. The prediction comes from a poll of members by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), which was not released with its recent housing market report. "With the current dynamic in London, and if prices rose 40% over five years, a property bubble would be a risk, although I would be more worried if prices were out of line with supply and demand," Rics economist Simon Rubinsohn said.
House of Fraser is looking to return to the stock market after nearly a decade held privately, the Sunday Times said. Managers are weighing a plan to float the department store chain after failed attempts to sell the business. A listing could value House of Fraser at £200m-£300m. The float plan, led by chairman Don McCarthy and a big shareholder are at an early stage and may not work out, the paper said.
Whitbread wants to expand its Costa Coffee chain further beyond the high street, the Financial Times reported. The group is planning to increase its existing "drive thru" Costa Coffee stores across the country to between 70 and 80 from 10 at the moment. Drive thrus have been some of the best-performing Costa Coffee outlets since the first one opened in 2011, Whitbread said. Five of the outlets will open by February 2014 and about 20 are in the pipeline, according to the company. Andy Harrison, chief executive of Whitbread, said that it was aiming to roll out up to 70 or 80 new "drive thru" Costa Coffee stores, as the group seeks new ways to develop the chain.
Cambridge Cognition has ousted its chief executive and finance director only four months after the medical technology company sold shares to the public, the Sunday Times said. Ruth Keir, who led the £12m float in April and David Blair, the finance head, have left. Nick Kerton, an independent non-executive director, replaced Keir after she departed the dementia test company in the week beginning August 12th. He said Keir had wanted to leave but Keir said she could not comment because she had signed a compromise agreement, the paper said.
Sweden's Atlas Copco is poised to buy the UK's Edwards Group for about £800m, the Sunday Times said, citing Sky News. Edwards makes vacuum pumps and equipment for making modern "clean room" technology used for making electronic components. In 2011 Edwards tried to float in London but abandoned the attempt, blaming market volatility. In May it floated on America's Nasdaq exchange. The shares closed on Friday at $8.45, giving the company a market value of $953m (£610m).