PRESS DIGEST- British Business - Jan 17

Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:29pm EST

Jan 17 (Reuters) - The following are the top stories on the business pages of British newspapers. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

The Telegraph

BANKS MUST SELL 'SIGNIFICANT' NUMBER OF BRANCHES, SAYS ED MILIBAND

Ed Miliband will promise to create at least two new challenger lenders by forcing Britain's biggest high street banks to sell a "significant" number of branches. The Labour leader claims that, if elected, one of his first acts would be to order the Competition and Markets Authority to produce a report on how to cap the market share of the big banks and encourage new competitors. Miliband's keynote speech at the University of London has been widely leaked in advance, but details released on Thursday made clear the scale and speed of his proposed reforms.

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HSBC FACES 70 BLN STG CAPITAL HOLE, WARN HONG KONG ANALYSTS

HSBC could have overstated its assets by more than 50 billion pounds and ultimately need a capital injection of close to 70 billion pounds before the end of this decade, according to an incendiary report published by a Hong Kong-based research firm.

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The Guardian

ARGOS AND DIXONS TRIUMPH DURING CHRISTMAS SALES AS ONLINE RETAIL BOOMS

Argos and Dixons have emerged as winners from the Christmas battle of Britain's retailers, as booming online orders drove sales. Sales at Argos stores open a year or more rose 3.8 percent to 1.8 billion pounds in the trading period covering Christmas while equivalent sales at Dixons in the UK and Ireland jumped 5 percent.

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GOLDMAN SACHS PAYS EMPLOYEES AVERAGE OF $383,000 AFTER PROFITS RISE 5 PCT

Goldman Sachs Group Inc paid its bankers an average of $383,000 in 2013, after profits for the year rose by 5 percent to $8 billion. Putting a fresh focus on the debate over bankers' pay, Goldman's 32,900 global employees will be told the size of their individual bonuses on Thursday.

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The Times

FINANCIAL ADVISERS LOSE THEIR TICKETS TO LUXURY

Overseas junkets, luxury hotel jollies masquerading as "training weekends" and invitations to top sporting events are to be outlawed amid a crackdown on inducements offered by insurers and fund managers to financial advisers.

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GROWTH IN CYCLING KEEPS HALFORDS IN GOOD HEALTH

Halfords Group Plc hailed an "excellent" Christmas as festive sales of children's bicycles kept its recovery firmly on track. The car parts and bicycle retailer, which in November announced a return to profit growth, said like-for-like retail sales rose 5.9 percent over the 15 weeks to January 10 - driven by a 20 percent rise across its cycle ranges.

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The Independent

MIKE ASHLEY SWAPS DEBENHAMS SHARE STAKE FOR OPTIONS IN 'BAFFLING' MOVE

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley's Sports Direct investment in Debenhams took another twist on Thursday as it sold its 4.6 percent share stake in the struggling department stores chain but took a complex financial option, which could see it buy an even larger stake at a cheaper price.

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REBALANCING THE ECONOMY WILL TAKE YEARS, WARNS VINCE CABLE

Business secretary Vince Cable has admitted the government's industrial strategy to rebalance the economy away from its dependence on financial services might need more than a decade to "take root".

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