The chief executives of some of Britain's biggest life insurers have asked regulators to intervene after the Chancellor's announcement of dramatic changes to the pensions market, the Sunday Telegraph said. The insurance bosses have contacted the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, the paper said, without naming the companies. Britain's biggest listed life insurers are Legal & General, Standard Life, Prudential and Aviva. The companies are unhappy that they weren't consulted before George Osborne proposed giving pension savers freedom not to buy an annuity. But a "City source" told the paper: "Annuities are over. Companies need to figure out new retirement products and move on."
Britain's big six energy companies could be broken up after their regulator refers them to the new competition watchdog, the Sunday Times said. Ofgem will not make an immediate referral to the Competition and Markets Authority and instead is likely to announce a one-month consultation. The big six, which includes Centrica and SSE, could be forced to split their power generation and retail operations. They face political pressure over rising household energy bills but some chiefs hope the referral will remove the political heat from the sector.
Retail tycoon Philip Green has entered the supermarket price war by pledging to uncercut rivals' prices by 10% when he starts selling food at his BHS stores, the Sunday Times said. Green, who also owns Topshop, plans about 140 food outlets with the first two opening in the next few days. "There's no point in opening up and getting torn apart because we haven't got competitive prices," he told the paper. Tesco, Sainsbury's and Morrisons have suffered from the rise of German discounters Aldi and Lidl, prompting Morrisons to warn on profits and pledge to cut prices to win back market share.
Leading fund managers have said the hounding of investment banks could damage the City of London's place as an international financial centre, the Sunday Telegraph reported. Gerry Grimstone, Chairman of Standard Life and The City UK, said: "It is very important there are strong investment banks in Britain." Barclays, which has the UK's biggest investment bank, is under pressure to shrink the business after increasing bonuses when profits fell. Robert Talbut of Royal London Asset Management warned of the danger of driving the investment bank out of London to a New York listing.
Lloyds Banking Group intends to sell its last housebuilding asset by off-loading Avant Homes for £200m, the Sunday Times reported. Lloyds acquired Avant, then named Gladedale, when it rescued HBOS in early 2009. HBOS had acquired stakes in a string of housebuilders but has already sold the rest. Private equity houses such as Blackstone are likely to be interested when investment bank Rothschild starts talking to potential buyers this week.
Standard Life is considering offering £400m to buy Ignis Asset Management, the Sunday Times said. Iginis manages £67.7bn of pension savings and has been put up for sale by Phoenix Group, the life assurance acquisition vehicle. Other potential bidders include Canadian bank RBC and Australia's Macquarie. If Standard Life buys Ignis it would probably absorb it into its existing fund management business and make most Ignis employees redundant.
Dixons and Carphone Warehouse are set to ask for an extension to the deadline for their proposed £4bn merger, the Sunday Telegraph said. The companies announced merger talks in February, when the Takeover Panel gave them until 5pm on March 24th to say they intended to do a deal. Dixons and Carphone are expected to ask for an extension until the end of May under a provision that lets companies seek more time if they think a deal will result.
A care home suing Barclays in a civil lawsuit has alleged there are discrepancies between what the bank told US regulators about manipulation of the Libor market, the Financial Times said. Graiseley Properties, which owns the care home, claimed in court on Friday that Barclays' admission to US authorities that it made "occasional" improper submissions to the sterling Libor rate was incompatible with its claim to Graiseley that it "does not know what those 'few occasions are'". Graiseley is suing Barclays over what it alleges was a mis-sold interest rate swap.
Inflation is set to fall to its lowest level for more than four years when official figures are published on March 25th, the Sunday Times said. Economists expect the annual rate of price increases to have fallen to 1.7% from 1.9% the month before, promising an end to the long period of falling real wages caused by stagnant wages outstripped by rising prices.
The owners of Bonhams auction house are considering selling or floating the business after it achieved record profits, the Sunday Times said. The company could seek an injection from a buyout or sovereign fund or pursue a market listing. Owners Robert Brooks and Evert Louwman have considered floating Bonhams in Hong Kong before.