Premier Oil has rejected two takeover approaches from Ophir Energy, the Sunday Times reported. The most recent proposal by Ophir was an all-share deal that was unanimously rejected by Premier's board two weeks ago. The companies are likely to inform the market about the talks on April 28th following the papers' report. Ophir made its first approach in February within days of Premier announcing that its Chief Executive, Simon Lockett, was stepping down. A source close to Premier said the board rejected Ophir's overtures because a deal lacked "strategic fit" and was not in shareholders' interests. It is unclear whether talks will resume.
The Government will allow local councils to block bookmakers such as Ladbrokes and William Hill from opening new branches, the Sunday Telegraph reported. The Prime Minister is expected to announce the policy as early as April 30th. Paddy Power, the fast-growing Irish bookie, is likely to call on the competition watchdog to investigate the changes on the grounds that they favour incumbent operations. The Government will also force gaming companies to say how they will comply with requirements on promotions and window displays.
Friends Life's founder Clive Cowdery wants the insurer to consider splitting its "zombie" business of old policies from the division that writes new business, the Financial Times said. His proposal risks a rift with management, led by Chief Executive Andy Briggs, which wants to continue expanding into the UK pensions market. Cowdery wants Friends to consider selling the new business operation, leaving the company to focus on buying more existing policies. Insiders denied there was conflict between Briggs and Cowdery, who leaves the board in two weeks but retains influence.
The former boss of Xstrata is working on a plan to buy unwanted assets from mining giant BHP Billiton, the Sunday Times reported. Mick Davis has offered to buy BHP's thermal coal business and is considering a further offer for its aluminium, nickel and manganese divisions. Davis, who has amassed $3.7bn from investors to form a new mining company, was Finance Director of Billiton in 2001 when it merged with BHP. The assets he is eyeing up were the core of his old company.
Morrisons will make its first move into the London online grocery market on May 12th, a month earlier than planned, the Financial Times said. The supermarket group will make its first internet sales in Ruislip, West London, which has a mixed ethnic population. The ability to serve diverse communities is the key to cracking the London online market, Morrisons believes. Morrisons is trying to catch up with Tesco and other rivals in online sales through a partnership with Ocado which launched in the Midlands at the start of 2014.
Tesco wants to strengthen its board by adding more retail experience after disappointing annual results, the Sunday Telegraph said. At least one non-executive will be added this year whose background is in retail or consumer goods. Chairman Richard Broadbent also wants to promote Tesco executives such as UK boss Chris Bush to the board eventually. Tesco believes the board already has strong general business and corporate governance knowhow.
An influential hedge fund manager has complained to regulators about last week's attack by a US short seller on Aim-listed Quindell Portfolio. The Sunday Telegraph said Davide Serra, whose Algebris Investments owns 2% of Quindell, contacted the Financial Conduct Authority and the US Securities and Exchange Commission about an attack on Quindell by Gotham City Research. Serra has strong political connections and has advised the Government on the fate of Royal Bank of Scotland. Gotham claimed shares
of Quindell, which sells IT services to insurers, were overvalued.
The UK economy is on course to overtake its pre-crisis peak before the summer, the Sunday Telegraph said. Official figures this week are expected to show the economy expanded by 0.9% in the first quarter despite torrential rainfall, representing an annual 3.2% growth rate. The economy is 1.4% smaller than in the first quarter of 2008 but is on track to expand beyond its pre-crisis level before the end of June.
Royal Bank of Scotland will pay top executives millions of pounds in "allowances" to avoid new limits on bankers' bonuses, the Sunday Times said. The no-strings payments will go ahead despite the Government blocking plans to pay big bonuses at the taxpayer-controlled bank. Chief Executive Ross McEwan will get a £1m fixed allowance from next year to make up for performance-linked bonuses restricted by rules imposed by the European Commission.