PRESS DIGEST - Sunday British Business-Sept. 22

LONDON, Sept 22 Sun Sep 22, 2013 9:32am EDT

LONDON, Sept 22 (Reuters) - British newspapers reported the following business stories on Sunday: The Sunday Times UK DEFENCE MINISTER DELAYS WEAPONS BUYING AGENCY SELL-OFF Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has ordered a review of the part-privatisation of Britain's weapons buying agency. Two bids for the operation, which has an annual budget of 15 billion pounds ($24 billion), remain on the table, from teams led by rival American contractors Bechtel and CH2M Hill, after engineers URS and KBR abandoned their bids.

ROYAL MAIL MAKES PENSION CONCESSIONS TO AVERT STRIKE Royal Mail has scrapped a proposal to cap pensionable pay rises at the rate of inflation, up to a maximum of 5 percent, in a bid to fend off strike action that could coincide with its 3 billion pounds ($4.8 billion) privatisation.

ENTERTAINMENTS GROUP MERLIN SET TO LAUNCH IPO Merlin Entertainments, the owner of Madame Tussauds waxworks and Alton Towers theme park, could unveil plans for a 3.5 billion pounds ($5.6 billion) flotation within a fortnight. The Sunday Telegraph PRIVATE EQUITY INTERESTED IN BUYING TSB BRANCHES Lloyds has received a number of early-stage approaches from private equity firms interested in buying TSB, including one from U.S.-based JC Flowers. AnaCap may also have expressed an interest in some sort of trade sale for the business, which split from Lloyds earlier this month.

RETAILER TOPSHOP PLANS U.S. EXPANSION Topshop, the fashion retailer owned by Philip Green's Arcadia Group, plans to open more than 150 new franchise stores around the world over the next year, including 28 new sites in the stores of U.S. retailer Nordstrom.

Independent on Sunday BRITAIN EXPECTED TO REJECT RBS SPLIT INTO 'GOOD', 'BAD' BANKS A government-commissioned report is expected to reject a full-scale split of RBS into a good and bad bank, but could recommend hiving off its Irish business. The report could be released shortly after the Conservative Party conference, which starts in a week's time. The Mail on Sunday BP NORTH SEA FIELD COULD RETURN TO PRODUCTION AS IRAN BAN EASES The British government is understood to be close to agreeing a waiver that would allow gas to flow from the North Sea's Rhum field jointly owned by BP and National Iranian oil. The field has been idle for three years because of U.S. and EU sanctions against Iran.

BAE AND U.S. GROUPS IN SHOWDOWN FOR KOREAN ORDER The Eurofighter Typhoon, made by BAE, EADS and Finmeccanica, Lockheed Martin's part-British F-35 Lightning and Boeing's F-15 Silent Eagle are all in the running to win a 5.5 billion pound ($8.8 billion) contract from South Korea that is set to be decided at a meeting on Tuesday.

Sunday Express GOVERNMENT HIRES ADVISERS FOR EAST COAST MAINLINE FRANCHISE Britain's Department for Transport has hired PwC to help run the return of the East Coast Main Line rail franchise between London and Edinburgh to private operation.

IT GROUP VENDA TO LAUNCH FLOTATION AS EARLY AS NEXT WEEK Venda, an IT group that provides software for the online operations of Tesco and TK Maxx, could launch a 170 million pound ($272 million) flotation as early as next week.