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TOP STORIES

Lloyds Bank ready for share sale after return to profit

LONDON - State-backed Lloyds Banking Group says it is ready to return to private ownership after reporting a pretax profit for the first time in three years. (LLOYDS-EARNINGS/ (UPDATE 3), expect by 1030 GMT/5.30 AM ET, by Matt Scuffham and Steve Slater, 800 words)

Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable for $45.2 billion-sources

Comcast Corp is buying Time Warner Cable Inc for $45.2 billion in an all-stock deal, combining the nation's two largest cable operators, according to people familiar with the matter. (COMCAST-TIMEWARNERCABLE/ (UPDATE 3), moved, by Liana B. Baker, 780 words)

Italian leadership squabble weighs as shares halt hot run

LONDON - World shares stepped back from three-week highs on Thursday, as a five-day run of gains fuelled by assurances from major central banks about their supportive policies came to a halt. (MARKETS-GLOBAL/ (WRAPUP 3), moving shortly, by Marc Jones, 755 words)

BNP Paribas profit hit by $1.1 bln legal charge

PARIS - BNP Paribas, France's biggest listed bank, reports a 76 percent drop in quarterly profit after booking a $1.1 billion litigation provision in case it faces fines for breach of U.S. sanctions. (BNPPARIBAS-RESULTS/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by Lionel Laurent and Matthias Blamont, 645 words)

ECONOMY

Turkish central bank governor says sees improvement in 2014 c/a deficit

ISTANBUL - Turkish Central Bank Governor Erdem Basci says that the bank sees significant improvement in current account deficit in 2014. (TURKEY-C.BANK/ (UPDATE 1), moving shortly, 300 words)

Swedish c.bank keeps rates on hold at 0.75 pct as expected

STOCKHOLM - Sweden's central bank holds its key interest rate unchanged at 0.75 percent as expected and says the rate needed to stay at that level until inflation picked up and the economic recovery was on firmer ground. (SWEDEN-CBANK/, moved, 100 words)

Robust demand tightening oil market, IEA says

LONDON - Stronger-than-expected oil demand has drained inventories to the lowest level since 2008, tightening the market and defying predictions of a glut, the West's energy watchdog says. (IEA/ (UPDATE 1), moving shortly, 300 words)

U.S. deficits will have to wait as Congress moves on

WASHINGTON - Congress just wants the U.S. budget wars to be over. If any more evidence was needed, 12 Republican senators swallowed their principles and voted to propel a "clean" one-year debt limit increase toward passage on Wednesday. (USA-FISCAL/ (ANALYSIS), moved, by David Lawder, 955 words)

EU executive sees personal savings used to plug long-term financing gap

LONDON - The savings of the European Union's 500 million citizens could be used to fund long-term investments to boost the economy and help plug the gap left by banks since the financial crisis, an EU document says. (EU-BANKS/SAVINGS (EXCLUSIVE), moved, by Huw Jones, 530 words)

Japan Q4 growth seen quickening on shopping spree before tax hike

TOKYO - Japan's economic growth is expected to have quickened at the end of last year as consumers ramped up spending ahead of a planned sales tax hike, but analysts say that Tokyo may have to inject fresh stimulus to brighten the outlook. (JAPAN-ECONOMY/GDP (PREVIEW), moved, by Stanley White, 800 words)

Australia jobless rate hits decade high, sinks A$

SYDNEY - Australia's jobless rate unexpectedly jumps to a decade high in January, intensifying concerns about the future of the manufacturing sector as global carmakers prepare to pull out. (AUSTRALIA-ECONOMY/ (UPDATE 2, PICTURE), moved, by Wayne Cole, 640 words)

S.Korea c.bank keeps rates steady on firming recovery

SEOUL- South Korea's central bank stands pat for a ninth straight month, as expected, and a firming economic recovery supports the consensus market view that the bank will begin raising interest rates later this year. (KOREA-ECONOMY/RATES (UPDATE 1), moved, by Christine Kim and Jungmin Jang, 400 words)

Singapore Q4 GDP likely to be revised upwards to 5.3 pct y/y

SINGAPORE - Singapore's economy likely expanded at a faster year-on-year pace in the fourth quarter of 2013 than was earlier estimated, helped by a surge in manufacturing output late last year. (SINGAPORE-ECONOMY/GDP (PREVIEW), moved, 400 words)

Britain warns Scotland: Forget the pound if you break away

EDINBURGH - Britain will warn Scotland it can't keep the pound if it votes for independence, its boldest attempt yet to scuttle a nationalist bid to break the 307-year-old union with England. (BRITAIN-SCOTLAND/, moved, by Belinda Goldsmith, 700 words)

COMPANIES

Nestle sees sales growth below target again in 2014

VEVEY, Switzerland - Nestle expects another challenging year that could see it undershoot its long-term targets again, after price pressures in Europe and weaker emerging market demand slowed sales growth to 4.6 percent in 2013. (NESTLE-RESULTS (UPDATE 3), moving shortly, by Silke Koltrowitz, 670 words)

Rio Tinto austerity drive stokes surprise dividend hike

MELBOURNE - Global miner Rio Tinto surprises investors with a 15 percent dividend hike after reporting a huge jump in second-half profit, putting it in a strong position for a big capital return in 2015.. (RIOTINTO-EARNINGS/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by Sonali Paul, 715 words)

Peugeot and Dongfeng reach outline deal -sources

PARIS - PSA Peugeot Citroen has reached an outline deal with Dongfeng and France to raise up to 4 billion euros ($5.5 billion) in fresh capital and deepen cooperation with the Chinese carmaker, according to sources familiar with the matter. (PEUGEOT-DONGFENG/TALKS (UPDATE 2), moved, by Sophie Sassard, Laurence Frost and Gilles Guillaume, 600 words)

+ See also:

- RENAULT-EARNS/TARGET (UPDATE 2, PICTURE), moving shortly, by Laurence Frost, 700 words

- ROLLSROYCE-RESULTS/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by Brenda Goh, 685 words

Commerzbank turnaround gains traction after Q4 profit

FRANKFURT - Commerzbank accelerates its turnaround plan and improves its capital and clean-up targets after posting a small profit in the fourth quarter of 2013 as its restructuring gained traction. (COMMERZBANK-RESULTS/ (UPDATE 2), moving shortly, by Arno Schuetze, 535 words)

After strong Q3, Lenovo warns acquisitions to hit short-term performance

BEIJING - China's Lenovo Group Ltd says third-quarter profit jumped nearly a third, beating estimates, as the world's biggest maker of personal computers hoisted sales of smartphones in its drive to diversify out of the shrinking PC market. (LENOVO-Q3/RESULTS (UPDATE 1), moved, by Paul Carsten, 500 words)

Pernod Ricard warns China to remain difficult in H2

PARIS - French spirits group Pernod Ricard cut its annual profit growth goal as it warns demand in China, its second-largest market, will remain weak through end-June. (PERNOD-EARNINGS/ (UPDATE 2), expect by 1100 GMT/6 AM ET, by Dominique Vidalon, 700 words)

Publicis posts weak Q4 on emerging markets

PARIS - Advertising agency Publicis falls short of its annual growth target after a slowdown in emerging markets such as China and India caused the fourth quarter to end with a whimper. (PUBLICIS-RESULTS/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by Leila Abboud and Gwénaëlle Barzic, 500 words)

EDF posts strong profits as Europe utilities suffer

PARIS - France's EDF posts a 4.8 percent rise in 2013 core earnings buoyed by tariff hikes and strong nuclear and hydro power output in a rare show of strength in Europe's struggling utilities sector. (EDF-RESULTS/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by Geert De Clercq, 460 words)

Eni sees slightly lower gas sales in 2014

MILAN - Italian oil and gas group Eni says it expects 2014 gas sales, refining volumes and retail sales to be slightly lower than last year as weak conditions persist on its home turf and in Europe. (ENI/ (UPDATE 2), moving shortly, 480 words)

ABB lowers mid-term sales target on sluggish economy

ZURICH - Swiss engineering group ABB lowers its target for mid-term sales growth, blaming a slower-than-expected economic recovery and weaker capital spending by its customers. (ABB-RESULTS/ (UPDATE 2), moved, by Caroline Copley, 650 words)

Zurich posts lower-than-expected rise in profit

ZURICH - Zurich Insurance posts a rise in fourth-quarter net income on Thursday, but fell just short of expectations due in part to a restructuring charge. (ZURICH/ (UPDATE 1), moved, 240 words)

HomeServe agrees to pay record fine for mis-selling

LONDON - British repair and insurance group HomeServe has agreed to pay a 30.6 million pounds ($51 million) fine, the largest retail penalty imposed by the UK's financial regulator, after it is found to have committed a series of failings including mis-selling policies. (HOMESERVE/FINE, moved, 340 words)

Tate & Lyle scales back outlook, hurt by developed market weakness

LONDON - British food ingredients firm Tate & Lyle scales back its outlook for the full year, citing weak sales volume in developed markets and expectations for a dramatic drop in prices of its sucralose sweetener. (TATE&LYLE (UPDATE 2), moving shortly, by Martinne Geller, 390 words)

Australia's Telstra H1 profit rises 9.7 pct, eyes on international business

SYDNEY - Australia's biggest phone company Telstra Corp Ltd posts a 9.7 percent rise in the first-half net profit on Friday, driven by its core mobile business and fast-growing network applications and services (NAS) business. (AUSTRALIA-TELSTRA/ (UPDATE 2, PICTURE), moved, by Maggie Lu Yueyang, 725 words)