PRESS DIGEST - Business Press - March 17
BIDDERS CIRCLE EDF'S CRITICAL BRITISH NETWORK
Gregor Alexander, finance director of Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE.L), told a London energy conference that it has put in an indicative bid for the British distribution network of French utility group EDF (EDF.PA). EDF is hoping to raise 42 billion euros from the sale of the business which operates the electricity links to some of Britain's most critical infrastructure. Other energy infrastructure companies expected to bid include National Grid (NG.L), Hong Kong's Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holding and Australia's Macquarie bank in partnership with the Canada Pension Plan and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.
HISCOX HURT BY EARTHQUAKE AND STORM DAMAGE
Lloyd's of London insurer Hiscox (HSX.L) has said that it is facing losses of 100 million pounds due to the earthquake which hit Chile and a severe storm which struck France. Hiscox said that initial estimates put total insured losses from the Chilean earthquake at two billion to 10 billion dollars and that the French storm would cost the industry a further two billion to four billion dollars in claims. The insurer's shares closed at 343 pence on Tuesday, down 8.7 pence.
PAY RISE FOR ALL AT NORTHERN ROCK
Nationalised bank Northern Rock is in negotiations with the Unite union over a deal which would see top performers getting a wage rise of 5.5 per cent and those at the bottom of the scale getting a rise of 0.5 per cent. The bank is planning to give pay rises to staff even if their performance has been 'unacceptable' and is also planning to pay bonuses.
BET OF THE DAY
Shares in Desire Petroleum have risen by around 15 per cent this week to 102 pence on rumours that the oil exploration company will on Friday say that it has struck oil under the seas around the Falkland Islands. Further gains in the share price are expected with Spreadex currently offering a rolling spread of 101.7 pence-103.3 pence for the shares.
NEED TO KNOW: ASTRAZENECA
AstraZeneca (AZN.L) has announced that its experimental blood clotting treatment Brilinta has performed well in a clinical trial. The pharmaceuticals group also said that it is planning to buy more branded generic drugs and intends to make a big push into emerging markets.
NEED TO KNOW: SPORTS DIRECT INTERNATIONAL
The Competition Commission has given formal clearance to Sports Direct's (SPD.L) two-year buying spree of JJB stores. The Office of Fair Trading had raised concerns over the purchases.
The Daily Telegraph
BALFOUR BEATTY WINS US CONTRACTS
Engineering, construction and services company Balfour Beatty (BALF.L) has won three contracts in the United States to manage high-speed rail projects. The company's Parsons Brinckerhoff subsidiary has been chosen as the project manager for a 284-mile route between Chicago and St Louis. The company will also provide services for a new 250-mile service between Cleveland and Cincinnati and will oversee the design of a rail line between Orlando and Miami.
170 MILLION POUNDS FOR SHEFFIELD NUCLEAR PLANT
The government will on Wednesday announce a deal to build a nuclear pressure vessels and castings manufacturing plant in Sheffield. The 170 million pound deal will be co-funded by Westinghouse, Sheffield Forgemasters and the European Investment Bank. The government is hoping that the nuclear industry will grow exponentially as the country plans to build more nuclear reactors in the coming years.
TEN PER CENT PROFITS RISE AT G4S SECURITY
G4S (GFS.L) has posted a 10 per cent rise in profits from continuing operations to 500 million pounds. The security group said its "breadth and international diversity" helped it increase profits last year despite the challenging economic conditions. The company's turnover increased 7.4 per cent to seven billion pounds.
AIR PARTNER PROFITS DIVE 77 PER CENT
Aircraft charter company Air Partner revealed a 77 per cent fall in first half pre-tax profits to one million pounds on Tuesday and closed a loss-making private jet business at Biggin Hill which employed 44 staff. The company said that trading had been 'challenging' in the six months to 31 January and that it had been unable to find a buyer for the Biggin Hill business
ADMIRAL 'CHARGES MORE TO COVER DRIVERS BORN OUTSIDE UK'
Car insurer Admiral (ADML.L) has been accused by the consumer body Which? of discriminating against people born outside the UK by charging them more for cover. Which? says Admiral is in breach of the Race Relations Act. The consumer body found that, on average, premiums for the Admiral group of insurers were 18 per cent more expensive for an applicant born outside the UK and that there was no difference in the quotation received from any other insurer. Admiral has rejected the accusations.
ADMINISTRATORS INVESTIGATE ELIAS ELIA'S FAILED CREDIT CARD FIRM.
The administrators to E-Clear, the credit card payments group blamed for the collapse of airline Globespan, have begun an investigation into the activities of its management. A report sent by administrators BDO to creditors says that E-Clear's problems stemmed from the failures of travel groups XL Leisure and Zoom which left E-Clear facing 57 million pounds of credit card chargeback demands. The BDO report states: 'As (E-Clear) did not hold sufficient retention monies, it had insufficient resources to meet these liabilities other than by utilising receipts in respect of other solvent merchants'. The Serious Fraud Office is gathering intelligence on the conduct of E-Clear but has not launched a formal inquiry.