The Treasury has asked advisory firms for "creative ideas" over Royal Bank of Scotland that could enable the Chancellor to start selling shares
in the bank next year. The thinking is that radical action, such as selling Citizens, the bank's American business, would make it easier to sell the taxpayer's 45.5 bn pound stake for less than the Government's average in-price of 502.26p, financial sources told The Times.
The US Congress has passed a bill to reopen the federal government and approve new sovereign borrowings, ending three weeks of high drama on Capitol Hill that pushed the US to the edge of a debt default. With pressure mounting from US business and overseas creditors such as China, the Senate and then the House of Representatives both voted to end the partial government shutdown and extend the debt ceiling into early next year while Democrats and Republicans start negotiations on a new budget, the Financial Times writes.
The Tory chairman of the Commons Treasury Select Committee challenged the Chancellor yesterday, questioning whether he might be improperly favouring Chinese banks over other foreign financial institutions and putting undue pressure on the Bank of England to approve the policy change. Just 24 hours after George Osborne, on a visit to China, promised to help Chinese banks scale up their London operations by lightening the regulatory burden on them, Andrew Tyrie expressed his concern in a letter to Andrew Bailey, head of the Prudential Regulation Authority, the bank supervision arm of the Bank of England, writes The Times.
Thames Water's attempt to add an extra £29 to customers' water bills next year has been rejected by the industry regulator. Ofwat said the water and sewerage company, which serves about 14m customers in and around London, could only justify a bill hike of around £7 but that this would not be imposed on customers. Thames Water applied in August for a one-off price increase next year that would raise average bills by 8% from £354, blaming customers struggling to pay their bills and the cost of a super sewer under London, The Daily Telegraph explains.
Marks & Spencer must look seriously at offering a full online food service, says its former boss Stuart Rose, Chairman of internet grocery group Ocado. Speaking on the sidelines of the Internet Retailing Conference in London, Rose said: "By next year, M&S will be the only large grocer that doesn't have [an online grocery service]. If the customer wants it, eventually they are going to have to provide it," The Guardian reports.
Petrochemicals firm Ineos could close its Grangemouth fuel plant for good, putting thousands of jobs at risk as relations with its trade union broke down. Group director Tom Crotty said the firm would put a cost-cutting proposal directly to the workforce, bypassing trade union Unite, with a deadline of Monday to hear back from its 1,300 staff. He said rejection of the proposals could see investors - including billionaire majority owner Jim Ratcliffe - pull the plug on the plant after a meeting next Tuesday, The Daily Mail says.
FTSE 100 engineering group IMI said it has agreed to sell its beverage dispense and merchandising divisions for $1.1bn to Marmon Group, which is owned by Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway holding company. Following the deal, the news that some £620m will be returned to IMI's investors sent shares higher. The beverage division makes cooling, mixing and dispensing systems, supplying chains such as McDonalds with soft drinks equipment, according to The Scotsman.