The US government and Gulf Coast states are reportedly considering offering BP a deal under which the company will pay 16bn dollars to settle civil suits stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The deal would cover the company's potential penalties under the Clean Water Act and payments under the natural resources damage assessment, the Wall Street Journal said, citing sources familiar with the discussions. It was unclear if the deal had been formally offered to BP; both the company and the US Justice Department declined to comment. A settlement could avert a bruising court battle over the worst ever US offshore oil spill, which is slated to start on Monday in New Orleans, although the trial may begin as the terms of the deal are hammered out, The Guardian reports.
The decision by Moody's to cut the rating of the UK government from AAA to Aa1 is neither surprising, nor informative nor, in itself, damaging. But it is humiliating for the coalition government. It indicates that its programme of fiscal austerity is failing, on its own terms. Since cutting the deficit and retaining the AAA-rating were its overriding policy objectives, this has to be politically damaging. Alas, without a strong economic recovery, the position is likely to get worse. The government has put itself at the mercy of events. The chancellor is locked in. He could tighten harder; but then he risks another recession. He can tighten more gently; but then he is open to the charge of abandoning his plans. He will presumably stick doggedly to his plans and hope for the best, The Financial Times´s Martin Wolf says.
Royal Bank of Scotland is laying plans for a multibillion-pound share sale that could hand a pre-election windfall to George Osborne. The taxpayer-backed bank has told its executives to have the business primed and ready to sell shares
by the fourth quarter of 2014 just months before the likely polling day. At least 10% of the stock is likely to be sold, reaping about £5bn for the chancellor that could help patch up the nation's finances, according to The Sunday Times.
Vodafone is preparing a takeover bid for a small Spanish mobile phone provider in an attempt to bolster its flagging fortunes on the Iberian peninsula. The Newbury-based giant is weighing a swoop on Yoigo, which boasts about 3.5m subscribers, sources said. Yoigo has been put back on the block by TeliaSonera, a Nordic telecoms group, which shelved an auction of the business last year after bids fell short of its €1bn (£870m) target. City sources say it could sell for anything between €750m and €1.2bn this time around. Vodafone faces competition from France Telecom and Spain's Telefonica for the company, sources said, according to The Sunday Times.
The Royal Bank of Scotland is to reduce the size of its investment bank by as much as £30bn and cut hundreds more jobs as the taxpayer-backed lender attempts to head off growing government pressure to close down the controversial division. That will comes as the lender announces that it will reduce the size of the investment bank's balance sheet, as well as scaling back the amount of capital allocated to the business and continuing its redundancy programme. Furthermore, on Thursday RBS will announce its full-year results for 2012, which will show Britain's biggest state-backed lender remained loss-making last year. According to analysts at Investec, RBS is expected to announce it made a pre-tax loss of as much as £4bn, The Sunday Telegraph writes.
Marks&Spencer has been revealed as the biggest loser of the new year sales after suffering a slump in clothing revenues and market share. M&S saw sales of its fashion lines drop 1.3% in the 24 weeks to January 20th, according to industry data seen by The Sunday Times. The retailer's market share shrank 0.4% in the same period. Both numbers mark an acceleration of the downturn seen in the previous 24 weeks to December. Many M&S customers appear to have defected to Primark and Zara, both of which notched up double-digit sales growth. Debenhams, H&M and Next also performed well, despite the impact of snow during the period. The figures from Kantar Worldpanel, the research firm, ratchet up pressure on Marc Bolland, M&S's chief executive.
British defence group Chemring has launched an internal investigation after sensitive financial information was leaked from within one of its business divisions to another business. The FTSE 250 company triggered the inquiry after being alerted to the allegations by The Sunday Telegraph. It is understood the Serious Fraud Office has also received information and is looking into the matter. The SFO did not return calls and emails. Individuals from within Chemring's bomb disposal unit, Chemring EOD, allegedly sent confidential documents including detailed budget plans for the division for 2013. They also included spreadsheets with forecasts for orders and sales, and password-protected details of costs including production, sales and marketing costs, and directors' salaries.
It will take years for Britain to get its AAA credit rating back, a minister and former Chancellor has warned. Mr Clarke, one of the most experienced Tories in the Government, said losing the gold-plated rating is not "surprising" but it will take some time to recover. It comes as Lord Lawson, another former Chancellor, warned ministers to be very careful about provoking a "run on sterling," amid fears that the pound could drop against the dollar
and euro when the markets open on Monday. Coalition ministers were today playing down the idea that the economy will be affected by the loss of Britain's AAA credit rating. However, they warned that the path to economic recovery will not be easy. Mr Clarke told Sky News's Murnaghan programme that currency markets are unpredictable but most people were already expecting Britain's perfect rating to be lost, The Sunday Telegraph reports.
Nick Von Schirnding, Chief Executive of Bumi, is to lobby the Indonesian coal company's major institutional shareholders in a bid to receive backing for its planned separation from the Bakrie family. The meetings, set to begin later this week, are part of his plan to revive the company's fortunes, along with a planned name change to Asia Coal or Asia Resources and the appointment of a headhunter to help recruit an independent chairman. Mr von Schirnding, who, along with the majority of the company's board last week, survived an unseating attempt by founder investor Nat Rothschild, is to meet shareholders including Standard Life, Legal & General and the Abu Dhabi Investment Council to lobby for support, The Sunday Telegraph explains.