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Sunday newspaper round-up: Brexit, economic outlook, Interserve, Hammerson, Sainsbury's

By Digital Look

Date: Sunday 16 Dec 2018

Sunday newspaper round-up: Brexit, economic outlook, Interserve, Hammerson, Sainsbury's

(Sharecast News) - Two of Theresa May's most senior allies are preparing for a second EU referendum behind her back, opening up another Tory civil war. David Lidington - May's deputy in all but name - held talks with Labour MPs on Thursday in an effort to build a cross-party coalition for a new vote as the prime minister faced a week of humiliation at the hands of MPs and European Union leaders. - Sunday Times
Theresa May's chief of staff and her de facto deputy have been accused of "betrayal" by former ministers amid claims they are planning for a second Brexit referendum. Gavin Barwell and David Lidington, the Cabinet Office Minister, have reportedly been laying the groundwork for a new vote on the UK leaving the European Union. - Sunday Telegraph

Theresa May will summon EU27 ambassadors to No 10 this week as she continues to seek reassurances over the Irish backstop, with Downing Street vehemently denying drawing up contingency plans for a second referendum. The education secretary, Damian Hinds, said on Sunday: "Government policy couldn't be clearer. We are here to act on the will of the people clearly expressed in the referendum." - Observer

Theresa May is being urged to give her MPs free rein to vote for a second referendum, with a new group of ministers poised to back another public ballot on Brexit. Cabinet ministers are making fresh pleas for a new approach after the prime minister's bleakest week in office, which has left her authority seriously damaged and led some Tory MPs to fear it will become impossible for her to govern. - Observer

Families will be advised not to book holidays after next March, according to contingency plans being drawn up to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. The proposed guidance, which will shock the travel industry, was expected to be discussed at last week's cancelled cabinet meeting, after civil servants were told to ramp up emergency planning. - Sunday Times

Major investors have warned that central banks could push markets to "breaking point" next year as removing post-crisis stimulus slams the brakes on the global economy. A growing number of fund managers are warning clients of a gloomy outlook for 2019 as the money supply is curtailed and interest rates rise. - Sunday Telegraph

Inflation is set to fall to its lowest level in 20 months as the drop in the oil price feeds through to savings at the petrol pump. City economists are forecasting a decline in annual consumer price inflation to 2.3% when official figures for November are published on Wednesday. - Sunday Times

Philip Hammond's "Brexit dividend" could be wiped out this week when the Office for National Statistics publishes a long-awaited decision on how to treat student loans in the government accounts. Tomorrow's ruling comes amid mounting concerns that the current system creates a "fiscal illusion" and fails to reflect properly the impact of student debt - which has ballooned to more than £100bn - on the public finances. - Sunday Times

The chairman of Debenhams has delivered an ultimatum to Mike Ashley inviting him to make an offer for the entire chain of department stores - if he is serious about wanting to take control. In an interview that will send shockwaves across the High Street, which is facing its toughest ever Christmas period, Sir Ian Cheshire challenged the Sports Direct owner to stump up the cash for a formal takeover bid. - Mail on Sunday

British households face an £80m bill to cover the costs of transferring more than half a million customers from bust energy firms, raising questions over whether the regulatory regime is fit for purpose. Eight suppliers have ceased trading this year amid rising wholesale prices, forcing energy regulator Ofgem to step in and appoint new suppliers. Four have collapsed in the past two months alone, including One Select on Monday. - Observer

Interserve, the outsourcing giant, has drawn up plans to offload one of its most profitable businesses to its lenders in its latest bid to save its future. Sky News reported that Interserve has been exploring the possibility of offloading RWD Kwikform - one of its construction units - to the company's lenders. - Sunday Telegraph

Industrial giant Interserve could slash its interest rate bill by as much as £60 million a year if it can persuade its lenders to swap a chunk of its mounting debt pile for shares in the business. The company employs 45,000 workers in Britain and its largest customer is the Government. It said last week it will consider 'all options' as part of rescue plans. - Mail on Sunday

Shopping centre owner Hammerson has been accused of understating its true debt position through creative accounting. Hammerson has kept its headline loan-to-value (LTV) - the ratio of its debts to its assets - below its self-imposed 40% limit by accounting for its retail outlets business, which includes the popular Bicester Village, in a way that is the most flattering, rather than most appropriate, according to Barclays analyst Paul May. - Sunday Times

Struggling shopping centre owner Hammerson is attempting to fill empty space by playing the traditional role of department stores, renting out concessions direct to small brands. With House of Fraser, Debenhams and even John Lewis under pressure, the owner of the Bullring in Birmingham and Brent Cross in London is faced with unoccupied property and so is seeking to assemble its own collection of fashion, beauty and food concessions on floors formerly used by department stores. - Sunday Telegraph

Sainsbury's and Asda are preparing a joint assault on the grocery industry's biggest suppliers if their blockbuster merger is approved, in a move that will revive memories of the Marmitegate price row between Tesco and Unilever. The combination of the pair will ­create a new grocery powerhouse, with more than £50bn of sales and a quarter of the market, bringing to an end Tesco's reign as Britain's biggest supermarket chain. - Sunday Telegraph

Three years after launching her five-year turnaround plan at Kingfisher, chief executive Véronique Laury's ebullience has given way to excuses, and she finds herself fighting for survival. Sales at B&Q in Britain and Castorama, Kingfisher's biggest French business, are going backwards, group profits have barely moved and its cash reserves are being plundered to fund Laury's costly push to consolidate Kingfisher's unwieldy buying operations. - Sunday Times

Thousands of Jaguar Land Rover jobs are to be cut next year under a £2.5bn turnaround plan as Britain's biggest car maker is buffeted by "three big shocks". JLR has suffered from weakening demand in China, a crackdown on diesel cars and concerns about the impact of Brexit. - Sunday Telegraph

The broking giant TP Icap has launched legal action against Nex Group, the trading business built up by the Tory donor Michael Spencer, accusing it of breaching the terms of a £1.3bn deal. In papers filed at the High Court, TP Icap accuses Nex of breaking deal warranties that promised the voice-broking business was not exposed to any significant litigation. - Sunday Times

A £350m portfolio of pubs put up for sale by the company formerly known as Enterprise Inns has attracted bids from a string of funds looking to cash in on its lucrative property assets. Davidson Kempner, Cerberus, NewRiver and Aries Capital are all thought to have tabled second-round bids for the 370 pubs, which are understood to be on the block for between £320m and £350m. - Sunday Times

The builders' merchant Travis Perkins is hunting for a new chief executive as consumer confidence tanks. The FTSE 250 chain is understood to have hired headhunters to find a replacement for John Carter, who has been in post since 2014. - Sunday Times

Tech giants face having their rising monopoly power curbed by tough new rules after the world's top competition regulators pledged to clip their wings. Joe Simons, the chair of America's Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition, signalled that legal changes aimed at correcting market distortions were being crafted on both sides of the Atlantic. - Sunday Telegraph

One of WPP's largest investors last night threw his weight behind under-pressure boss Mark Read. David Herro of Chicago-based Harris Associates - WPP's second largest shareholder with a 7 per cent stake - backed Read after he unveiled a new, cost-cutting strategy last week. - Mail on Sunday

Telecoms operators have tried to stoke fears over foreign involvement in UK infrastructure after a regulatory decision in favour of the mobile and broadband provider Three. Ofcom has ruled that Three - owned by the Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing through CK Hutchison Holdings - can bring together pockets of spectrum in a move that could help its rollout of 5G wireless broadband. - Sunday Times

The financial fallout caused by delays to Transport for London's flagship Crossrail project will "inevitably" lead to a wave of further disruption on the capital's over-stretched transport networks, unions have warned. The transport authority, which answers to London mayor Sadiq Khan, said it would be slashing back office costs by 30pc in the next five years in a move that is expected to result in thousands of job losses. - Sunday Telegraph

Households face an extra £127 million being piled on their energy bills from the collapse of eight small energy suppliers this year, analysis shows. When a supplier goes bust, its customers - and any credit on their balances - are switched to a rival firm appointed by Ofgem, the regulator. - Mail on Sunday

A senior executive at one of Britain's most complained about energy suppliers is planning a new gas and power venture, just weeks after his former employer collapsed. The energy regulator has granted a licence to Extra Energy's former managing director, Ben Jones, just one week after it was forced to put in place a bailout plan for the company's 100,000 stranded customers. - Sunday Telegraph

Hostile bidders have ramped up their campaign to buy British North Sea oil firm Faroe Petroleum for £610 million by tapping up shareholders and threatening to force themselves on to the board. But one major shareholder in the AIM-listed company has told The Mail on Sunday he would not accept a bid from Norwegian oil firm DNO of less than £900 million. - Mail on Sunday

Alton Towers has had a second attempt to cut its tax bill turned down after a court ruled that its owners were wrong to blame a horrific rollercoaster crash for a slump in trade. Alton Towers owner Merlin Entertainments argued that its £4 million business rates bill should be reduced because potential visitors had been put off using the rides and that it had also decided to rein back marketing because of the crash. Its first attempt failed in April. - Mail on Sunday

Laura Ashley's new chairman has revealed that the company is planning its first spa and a string of hotels abroad. Andrew Khoo Boo Yeow, 46, who took over from his father last week, is also executive chairman at MUI which owns 35 per cent of the British homewares chain. - Mail on Sunday

American officials have raised concerns over the prospect of a Chinese state company building a nuclear power station on the Cumbrian coast next to Europe's biggest radioactive waste dump. Department of State representatives are understood to have raised their fears with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) over the attempts of China General Nuclear (CGN) to buy Moorside, next to the Sellafield nuclear-waste processing site. - Sunday Times

The co-founder of an action group that successfully sued Royal Bank of Scotland for £200 million in 2017 is to be quizzed at London's High Court on Wednesday. Irish businessman Gerard Walsh, 61 - who was branded a fraudster in a separate civil case at Jersey's Royal Court - is seeking a £3.75 million bonus for his work on the action. - Mail on Sunday

Crowdfunding platform Seedrs is preparing to launch a passive fund that lets clients back up to 100 small companies chosen by a computer algorithm. Investors in the fund, which will be launched next month, cannot pick the start-ups they back. - Sunday Times

The company that owns the ticketing website Trainline has not paid corporation tax since it was bought by an American private equity giant in 2015. Trainline, which was sold to KKR for £352m three years ago, made a pre-tax profit of £38.1m in the year to the end of February after handling £2.4bn of ticket sales, but it received a tax credit of £4.2m, according to accounts filed at Companies House last week. - Sunday Times

More than $260bn (£207bn) has been wiped off the value of Bitcoin in the year since surging to its $20,000 (£15,800) all-time high, stinging the swathes of ordinary investors who bought in at the peak of the craze. A wave of hype carried Bitcoin to its peak on Dec 17 last year, but its explosive rise was followed by a dramatic fall. - Sunday Telegraph



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