The first sign of private sector wage growth will be revealed in the week starting September 23rd, when the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) releases survey results, the Sunday Telegraph said. The FSB's research found that half of small firms are planning to increase workers' pay over the next 12 months or have done in the past year. Small firms make up more than half the economy and their strength is seen as an indicator for the nation's growth prospects.
Royal Bank of Scotland is expected to say in the week beginning September 23rd that it plans to float 316 branches it has been ordered to offload by the European Commission, the Mail on Sunday reported. RBS is teaming up with a consortium backed by the Church of England and private equity firm Corsair, which will inject up to £800m into the new bank and take a minority stake when the lender is floated in two years. The separation of the branches will be an important step towards an eventual sell-off of the Government's 82% RBS stake.
Shareholders in Royal Bank of Scotland intend to block any attempt by the Government to impose a break-up of the bank, the Sunday Times said. Shareholder approval is needed for a split of taxpayer-controlled RBS into a "good" and "bad" bank. George Osborne is close to announcing such a split but the Government will not have a vote. Several big shareholders intend to vote against the split because they see it as unnecessary and are fed up with Osborne interfering with the running of RBS.
BP is set to gain from the reopening of a North Sea gas field that has lain dormant for three years because of international sanctions against Iran, the Mail on Sunday reported. The Rhum gas field is jointly owned by BP and National Iranian Oil and once supplied 5% of UK gas output. With UK-Iran relations thawing, the Government is close to agreeing a sanctions waiver for the field, giving a multi-million pound boost to BP and the Iranian company.
House prices are rising at their fastest rate in three years, Nationwide is expected to say, the Sunday Times reported. The building society will say prices have jumped 4.5% in year to September, up from 3.5% in the year to the August. But Moody's Analytics has argued a property bubble is "remote" and that only three pre-crisis conditions exist now low mortgage rates, high household debt and the growth of payday lenders. Before 2008 there were six.
Energy Minister Greg Barker has spoken in support of energy company profits, the Sunday Telegraph reported. Barker said Britain had low energy prices compared with those elsewhere in Europe and that energy companies profits to make important investment in power plants. "If it's being reinvested and there's a fair deal for consumers we haven't got a problem," he said. Barker's lent his support ahead of expected price rises by the industry, led by Centrica-owned British Gas.
Foxtons wants to double its presence in London in the next five years, the Sunday Telegraph said, citing the estate agent's flotation prospectus. Foxtons said it wanted to open up to 10 new branches a year in London up to 2018, which would take it to as many as 82 branches. It is also planning long-term expansion outside London to up to 100 further local markets in the South East with similar potential to its London heartland.
City economists have attacked Chancellor George Osborne for risking a new housing bust with his Help to Buy scheme, the Sunday Telegraph reported. Rob Wood, UK economist at Berenberg Bank, said Help to Buy was "not a risk worth taking" any longer after the property market improved sharply. Albert Edwards, economic strategist at Societe Generale, added that the UK was already in a housing bubble and that a bust was "invevitable". Help to Buy helps buyers raise a mortgage and is set to be extended in early 2014 beyond first-time buyers currently covered by the scheme.
The Chief Executive of online grocer Ocado is in line for a £20m payout following the surge in its share price, the Sunday Times reported. The share windfall for Tim Steiner, chief executive, comes from a bonus plan put in place before Ocado floated in 2010. The scheme lets Ocado co-founder Steiner buy more than 10m Ocado shares
at an average price of 200p. Last week the shares ended last week at 402.4p, valuing Ocado at £2.3bn. The increase means Steiner has made a paper profit of more than £20m on the options.
BAE Systems is about to compete for a £5.5bn South Korean jet fighter contract, according to the Mail on Sunday. BAE's Eurofighter Typhoon is up against Lockheed's part-British F-35 Lightning and Boeing's F-15 Silent Eagle for the contract, which is likely to be decided at a meeting in Seoul on September 24th. UK companies including BAE and Martin-Baker also provide technology for the F-35 worth 15% of the contract. Reports in Korea have said only Boeing's F-15 meet's Korea's requirements and that bidding has closed.