PRESS DIGEST-Sunday British business - March 23

LONDON, March 23 Sun Mar 23, 2014 8:29am EDT

LONDON, March 23 (Reuters) - British newspapers reported the following business stories on Sunday. Reuters has not independently verified these media reports and does not vouch for their accuracy.

The Sunday Times

ENERGY GIANTS FACE BREAK-UP AS PROFITS PROBE LOOMS

Britain's big six energy companies will face the threat of break-up this week with their regulator Ofgem expected to announce its intention to refer the firms to the new Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

It will stop short of an immediate referral, industry sources said, with a likely one-month consultation on the move. The CMA, which takes over from the Competition Commission next month, could break up the big six, forcing the separation of their power-generation and retail arms.

Energy companies have faced repeated accusations that they have made excess profits as household bills have soared.

BOSSES CALLED TO RUSSIAN CRISIS SUMMIT

An emergency summit to discuss the impact of Russian sanctions on British business is to be convened this week by ministers.

The CBI, British Bankers' Association and other lobby groups will hold meetings at the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills to discuss the implications of the escalating crisis in Ukraine.

PRICE WAR: GREEN VOWS TO UNDERCUT TESCO BY 10 PCT WITH BHS FOOD

Billionaire retailer Philip Green has plunged into the supermarket price war, vowing to undercut rivals with the start of food sales at BHS department stores.

Green, who also owns Topshop, claimed BHS would be about 10 percent cheaper on branded goods than the big four supermarkets. The first two shops will open within days, with plans for about 140 food outlets.

OSBORNE'S TAX THREAT TO 99P ONLINE MUSIC

The era of the 99 pence music download is under threat after George Osborne launched a 300 million pound ($495 million) tax raid on technology giants such as Apple and Amazon .

The chancellor is closing a loophole that allowed internet companies to avoid paying British VAT on sales of digital goods, such as music, electronic books and smartphone games.

STANDARD LIFE PLANS SWOOP ON RIVAL IGNIS

Standard Life is mulling a 400 million pound ($660 million) takeover offer for Ignis Asset Management, which controls the money of 6 million British pension investors.

The fund manager is being put up for sale by its parent, Phoenix Group. Standard Life is one of a clutch of bidders said to be interested, alongside the Canadian banking group RBC and the Australian investment house Macquarie.

LLOYDS PUTS BUILDER ON AUCTION BLOCK

Lloyds Banking Group is preparing to shed its last house building asset with the 200 million pound ($330 million)sale of Gladedale, now renamed Avant Homes.

Private equity firms such as Blackstone, Starwood Capital and Patron are expected to circle as the Rothschild investment bank starts sounding out buyers this week.

FOUNDERS PLOT BID FOR KNICKERBOX

Janie Schaffer, the "knickers queen" who quit Marks & Spencer after just three months, is plotting her comeback with a bid for up-for-sale Knickerbox, the firm she and her former husband Stephen started in 1986.

The Sunday Telegraph

REGULATORS PRESSED ON PENSIONS

The heads of some of the UK's largest insurance companies have called on regulators to intervene in the wake of the Chancellor's planned pensions shake-up.

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that the chief executives of some of the country's biggest life insurers have lobbied both the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority in the past few days.

"SNP HAS NO ECONOMIC STRATEGY FOR SCOTLAND" - ITV CHAIRMAN

The Scottish National Party's plans for the country post-independence have been dismissed as "a few windmills and hydro power" by one of the UK's leading businessmen.

Archie Norman, chairman of ITV, said Scottish Nationalists had no credible plans to turn around the country's economic performance and that business leaders had to make the case for the Union.

UNILEVER'S RAGU IN PINNACLE'S SIGHTS

Pinnacle Foods, the US conglomerate, is understood to be the front runner in the $2 billion sale of Unilever's Ragu brand.

U.S. food groups Hillshire Brands, Post Holdings , Japanese grocery supplier Mizkan are all interested.

DIXONS AND CARPHONE LOOK TO DEAL EXTENSION

Dixons and Carphone Warehouse are poised to ask the Takeover Panel for an extension to the negotiations for their 4 billion pound ($6.60 billion) merger.

The retailers have a deadline of 1700 GMT on Monday to confirm whether they intend to press ahead with the deal.

Mail on Sunday

SUPERMARKETS LOCKED IN COURT BATTLE ON ADS

Sainsbury's has won the right to a judicial review in its battle against an allegedly misleading advertising campaign that claimed Tesco's products were cheaper.

($1 = 0.6063 British pounds) (Reporting by Neil Maidment; editing by Keiron Henderson)

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