Intercontinental Hotels has turned down a 6bn pounds takeover approach from an unnamed investment fund, the Sunday Times reported. The approach is said to have been made in the last three weeks but the board thought it was too low to consider. City sources think the group could now be a target for a US hotel company looking to move its tax base to the UK. Starwood Hotels, the £15bn owner of chains such as Holiday Inn and Le Meridien, is the most likely to make an approach.
Chancellor George Osborne is to tell Britain's banks to increase their lending to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), the Sunday Telegraph said. Osborne is expected to make demands for more competition in SME lending on May 28th as he publishes a survey on how the big banks treat SMEs. He will back the launch of a website to give SMEs more information about how banks treat businesses.
George Osborne will come under pressure over his Help to Buy scheme when official figures this week show a large increase in its use, the Sunday Times said. The first set of quarterly figures for the second stage of the programme are likely to increase calls for the Bank of England to rein in the scheme. Numbers from the main banks show completions under Help to Buy up about threefold since January.
Pfizer will "find a way" to buy AstraZeneca, the Mail on Sunday said. May 26th is the deadline for Pfizer to make a firm offer for the UK drugs company but unless the AstraZeneca board makes an unlikely switch and supports Pfizer's £55 a share offer the US company will have to abandon its bid. However, several big shareholders have said they would like further talks to work out a way to do the deal when Pfizer is allowed to seek new talks. It can make a new approach in six months' time or in three months if invited to do so by AstraZeneca.
Royal Bank of Scotland could join Lloyds Banking Group in limiting mortgage lending in London as part of a regulatory crackdown, the Mail on Sunday reported. The paper speculated that Lloyds' move was prompted by political pressure because it is partly owned by the Government and that state-controlled RBS could follow. The Bank of England is preparing to deflate the London housing bubble and Barclays and Santander could be forced to rein in lending, according to property expert Ray Boulger.
Serco Chief Executive Rupert Soames wants to hire his former Finance Director at Aggreko to help turn round the outsourcing company, according to the Sunday Times. Angus Cockburn, who helped Soames turn Aggreko into a FTSE 100 company, is interim Chief Executive at Aggreko until a replacement is found. He has told Aggreko he will not leave until it has a new boss.
A group of Halfords' suppliers have combined to do legal battle against the retailer's demand for financial support, claiming it is a breach of competition law, the Sunday Telegraph said. Two separate groups of suppliers have appointed lawyers to challenge Halfords. One has hired City firm Dentons, while the other has enlisted competition law firm Singletons. Halfords recently asked its suppliers to pay up to 10% of their annual sales to Halfords to help fund the company's £100m revamp of stores. Halfords' suppliers have lodged complaints with the Competition and Markets Authority.
Blue Inc is ready to announce plans for a market listing despite signs of waning demand for flotations, according to the Sunday Times. The fashion retailer wants to raise about £15m on the Alternative Investment Market in a transaction valuing it at about £60m. The money will be used to double the number of stores and revamp its website. The company thinks it will be well received because it has a number of its own labels and is not being sold by a private equity firm.
BSkyB is buying a £5m stake in regional newspaper publisher Johnston Press, the Sunday Times said. The pay-TV company will own almost 2% of the Scotsmand and Yorkshire Post publisher after a £360m refinancing. A large majority of shareholders are expected to back the restructuring in a vote on May 27th. Sky has struck an advertising deal with Johnston so that its sales force will sell advertising time on Sky to local businesses.
Quindell Chief Executive Robert Terry was paid his maximum £720,000 cash bonus for last year despite presiding over a recent halving of the insurance services group's share price, the Sunday Times said. The payment lifted his total pay to £1.3m - nearly half more than the year before. Quindell was severely criticised last month by a report from US short seller Gotham City Research. Quindell has denied most of Gotham's claims and has taken legal action. Quindell told the paper Terry's pay reflected rising revenue and profit last year.
Stress tests by the European Central Bank could push dozens of banks into liquidation, the Sunday Times reported. Problem loans that have been hidden are being revealed by the tests, with banks' property valuations the latest category for scrutiny. Romanian banks, many owned by big European banks, will be some of the hardest hit with French banks also likely to come under strain because of the tests' treatment of derivatives.
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