PRESS DIGEST - Sunday British Business - May 12

LONDON Sun May 12, 2013 7:37am EDT

LONDON May 12 (Reuters) - British newspapers reported the following business stories on Sunday:

The Sunday Telegraph

NEW CO-OP CHIEF TO LAUNCH STRATEGIC REVIEW The new chief executive of the Co-operative Group is to undertake a strategic review of its businesses in the wake of the downgrade of its bank's debt status to 'junk'.

Euan Sutherland, who takes over from the outgoing Peter Marks this week, will evaluate each of the group's main businesses and is likely to focus on the sustainability of the bank, which has 342 branches, and whether it is possible for it to be sold or wound down in some way.

CVC SET TO RETURN WITH HIGHER BETFAIR OFFER

A consortium led by CVC Capital Partners will return with an offer of close to 1 billion pounds ($1.54 billion) for gambling exchange Betfair this week.

The private equity group, which is working with Betfair shareholders Richard Koch and Antony Ball, has sounded out investors over a revised approach before a takeover panel deadline on Monday evening. The offer will be close to 10 pounds a share, above the 880 pence a share bid that was rejected by Betfair last month.

WAITROSE MAY MOVE TO HALT OCADO-MORRISONS TIE-UP

Waitrose managing director Mark Price will reject a deal between digital retailer Ocado and grocer Morrisons and plans to ramp up its own online service in direct competition with Ocado.

Ocado and Waitrose have a delivery agreement that runs until 2020, with a break clause in 2017. If Ocado did a deal with Morrisons, it could risk a breach of contract with Waitrose, which could take legal action and demand compensation, Price said.

BANK OF ENGLAND SET TO RAISE GROWTH FORECASTS

The Bank of England looks set to raise its growth forecasts for Britain this year in an Inflation Report due on Wednesday, which will be governor Mervyn King's "parting gift" before he steps down in June.

An improvement in the Bank's outlook will be taken as further evidence the recovery is gaining momentum after better than expected recent figures on manufacturing and services.

BT COULD RETURN TO MOBILE TELECOMS MARKET WITH 4G NETWORK

BT is to move back into the mass mobile telecoms market for the first time in more than a decade by offering consumers access to a BT-branded 4G mobile network.

Chief executive Ian Livingston said it was "highly possible" that BT-branded SIM cards would be in customers' smartphones this time next year, with bills paid as part of their package of other services. It would be the first time BT has ventured into the retail mobile telecoms market since it divested its ownership of its O2 mobile brand in 2002.

M&S TO SERVE UP KEY AUTUMN COLLECTION

Marks & Spencer will this week present its new autumn-winter fashion range to city analysts as Chief Executive Marc Bolland tries to convince investors that he is on track to turn around nearly two years of falling clothing sales.

Shareholders want to see progress this autumn and for M&S to rediscover the balance between quality, price and fashion that critics say M&S has lost in clothing.

FILM GIANTS BACK PINEWODD EXPANSION PLAN

Four of Hollywood's biggest film-makers have backed a 200 million pound expansion of Pinewood Studios ahead of a key planning decision this week.

Marvel, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Walt Disney Studios have written to Pinewood's local council in south Buckinghamshire, urging approval of the scheme after a previous proposal was rejected. Pinewood is seeking to double in size after a lack of capacity forced it to turn away major projects.

The Sunday Times

CO-OP ASKS BANKS TO BACK RESCUE PLAN The Co-operative Bank has submitted a rescue plan to the Bank of England that will force the struggling lender to sell large parts of its business to plug a 750 million pound black hole in its finances.

The bank has denied suggestions that it will have to ask for a government bailout, but pressure has been mounting since last Thursday when credit ratings agency Moody's cut the bank's rating six notches to junk status.

BRITAIN READY TO BAIL OUT UK COAL

Britain's government is preparing to rescue the country's coal industry by dumping into a quango the heavy financial liabilities that threaten to crush it.

The part-nationalisation may prevent the collapse of UK Coal, which has suffered a cash crunch since a fire closed its Daw Mill deep mine in March. A bailout is being discussed by Whitehall departments, with talks led by the Shareholder Executive, the specialist team of corporate financiers inside the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.

ASHLEY THREATENS REPUBLIC WALKOUT OVER RENT

Retail tycoon Mike Ashley has threatened to walk away from the Republic fashion chain unless its landlords agree to new terms.

Ashley, who made his fortune with Sports Direct, met 45 property owners in London last week to deliver the ultimatum. He said stores would close unless rents were cut and also offered to pay half the current rent or 15 percent of turnover from each store, whichever is greater.

HANDS LINES UP 1 BLN STG ODEON FLOAT

Europe's largest cinema operator, Odeon & UCI, has hired advisers to prepare it for a possible 1 billion pound stock market listing or sale.

The multiplex chain, owned by Terra Firma, the investment vehicle founded by Guy Hands, recently appointed Wall Street banks JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, but any deal is unlikely to materialise for several months.

EXTRA TIME FOR ENRC TRIO'S BID

Three oligarchs pursuing miner ENRC will be given more time to put together a takeover bid.

Alexander Mashkevich, Patokh Chodiev and Alijan Ibragimov, who own 44 percent of ENRC, have until Friday to put up or shut up, but they are expected to be granted an extension by the Takeover Panel.

Mail on Sunday

LLOYDS AND UKFI FACE QUESTIONS OVER CO-OP DEAL FAILURE Lloyds Banking Group and the government-backed UKFI could be hauled in front of the Treasury Select Committee to face questions over why they rubber-stamped the Co-op's doomed deal to buy hundreds of Lloyds branches.

PUNCH TAVERNS TALKS OVER DEBT HIT WALL

Talks between Punch Taverns and its debt holders have reached a stalemate, increasing the chances of the pubs group defaulting on its debt repayments.

The company wants some of its lenders to write down their debt and others to accept later payment by several years to buy time to turn the company around. However, a group of bondholders have rejected the plans with the company yet to come up with an alternative deal.

BT TO GO TO OFCOM OVER SKY RIGHTS BATTLE

BT could lodge a formal complaint with Ofcom against rival Sky, which it says is trying to obstruct its plans to offer access to Sky's UK soccer matches on its Youview digital service.

BT, which itself owns the rights to 38 matches, wants to offer access to Sky's 154 matches on Youview. But it claims Sky is being obstructive in negotiations over the price because it fears competition for football viewers.

The Independent on Sunday

HSBC SET TO ANNOUNCE MORE JOB CUTS

HSBC could announce more job cuts this week when investors will be told that Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver will push ahead with plans to produce a leaner, more streamlined bank. The bank could dispose of up to 20 more businesses over the next two years as it abandons the practice of 'flag planting' in as many territories around the world as possible.

NEW DIAGEO BOSS RULES OUT GUINNESS SALE

Incoming Diageo boss Ivan Menezes said he would look to do deals when he took the helm of the drinks giant but ruled out selling Guinness, the famous Irish stout, which analysts have speculated could be sold by the company.

UK FIRMS COURTED IN ARMS PROCUREMENT SHAKE-UP The U.S. infrastructure groups looking to run the Ministry of Defence's 160 billion pound military procurement programme are wooing British groups to join their teams.

Likely U.S. bidders, such as Bechtel, URS, Fluor and CH2M Hill, are trying to convince Britain's Serco , Capita, WS Atkins, and PA Consulting, none of whom are likely to be able to bid alone, to form consortia.

The Observer

UK TO LOOK FOR OVERSEAS ROYAL MAIL DEAL IF FLOAT BLOCKED

Business minister Michael Fallon said the British government would look at selling the Royal Mail to overseas buyers if unions continue with their campaign against Royal Mail listing on the stock market.