PRESS DIGEST--Sunday British Business - May 11

LONDON Sun May 11, 2014 10:13am EDT

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LONDON May 11 (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

PHILIP GREEN PLANS STOCK MARKET RETURN WITH ONLINE RETAILER

Retail billionaire Sir Philip Green is heading back to the stock market for the first time in 26 years after a deal to buy a stake in Mysale, a fast-growing online store. Green will take a 25 percent stake in Mysale, which is understood to be sounding out investment banks over plans to float in London within months.

BANK SIGNALS RATES TO RISE BEFORE ELECTION

The Bank of England is expected to signal this week that interest rate rises are likely before the election, as it upgrades Britain's growth prospects yet again. Mark Carney, the Bank's governor, is likely to "rubber stamp" market expectations that the first rate rise will come in the first quarter of 2015 - up to three months earlier than forecast in February.

PFIZER: PLEDGES TO BRITAIN ARE BINDING

Pfizer has called in a top U.S. law firm to fight accusations that its pledges over a planned 63 billion-pound ($106 billion) takeover of AstraZeneca are worthless.

Ian Read, the Viagra maker's chief executive, has been advised by Skadden Arps that commitments, including the retention of 20 percent of research and development staff in Britain, are legally binding.

SKY PLOTS 22 BILLION-POUND EUROPEAN EMPIRE

BSkyB is planning a series of takeovers that would turn it into a 22 billion-pound ($37 billion) pay-television giant in Europe, with enhanced clout in the battle for football rights.

Sky, 39 percent owned by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox , is in early-stage talks to buy the tycoon's stakes in Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia. Sources close to Sky cautioned, however, that the negotiations, first reported by Bloomberg, were in their infancy.

FRESH UPHEAVAL AT PREMIER OIL

Another top executive at Premier Oil is poised to resign amid a board shake-up that could leave the listed explorer vulnerable to a takeover. Andrew Lodge, the head of exploration since 2009, is understood to have informed the board that he plans to leave.

BRANSON BANK TEES UP 2 BILLION-POUND LISTING

Sir Richard Branson is lining up a bumper payday from a float of Virgin Money, the banking arm of his sprawling business empire. The high street lender, which has more than 4 million customers, is close to appointing two investment banks to begin preparations for a listing next year.

LONMIN THREATENS TO CLOSE MINES

The world's third-biggest platinum miner is losing 1.8 million pounds ($3 million) a day and could be forced to close mines if a damaging strike by South African workers is not resolved soon.

Ben Magara, Lonmin's chief executive, will issue the warning tomorrow when he unveils a huge loss at the company's half-year results.

PANEL MAY PROBE OFFER FOR COAL MINER

The Takeover Panel is considering launching a probe into a proposal to wind up Asia Resource Minerals. The company's only asset is an 85 percent stake in PT Berau , an Indonesian coal producer that is managed by a London-based team.

Last week Asia Resource Minerals revealed that Samin Tan, the former chairman who holds a 47 percent stake, wants to delist the company and hand its Berau shares, which trade on the Jakarta exchange, to investors.

BALFOUR BEATTY'S SOP TO INVESTORS

Balfour Beatty is planning to return several hundred million pounds to shareholders from the sale of its American division Parsons Brinckerhoff.

The embattled construction company, which last week lost Chief Executive Andrew McNaughton after a shock profit warning, has employed Goldman Sachs to sell the arm.

The Sunday Telegraph

INVESTORS TELL ASTRA TO ENGAGE

Shareholders in AstraZeneca have told the company's management they must engage with Pfizer if and when the U.S. drugs giant returns with a higher offer.

The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that a number of major investors who have met chief executive Pascal Soriot in recent days are understood to have told him that a higher offer must not be rejected without full engagement.

CARPHONE WAREHOUSE TO ANNOUNCE 3.6 BLN-POUND DIXONS TIE-UP

Carphone Warehouse is poised to announce its 3.6 billion pound ($6 billion) tie-up with Dixons Retail in a deal that will change the face of British electronics retailing.

The two retailers are on Thursday expected to confirm their "merger of equals" following two months of talks as to how the deal would be structured and the potential benefits to shareholders of both companies.

BT GEARS UP FOR 4G PRICE WAR WITH PLANS TO START NEW MOBILE NETWORK

BT has promised to repeat its radical approach to the television sport market when it launches its own mobile network this year, threatening operators and raising the prospect of price war on 4G services.

BT will re-launch its mobile network for businesses within three months, with its re-entry into the consumer market due by next April.

ANITE IN TRAVEL SALE TALKS WITH LLOYDS

Software company Anite has entered into exclusive talks to sell its travel business to LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group.

Anite, which sits in the FTSE 250 Index, said in February that it was investigating a "potential disposal of the business". Evercore is advising the company on the sale process. It is thought Anite's travel division could fetch around 40 million pounds.

OFCOM POISED TO BLOCK MURDOCH PAY-TV MOVE

Ofcom is poised to obstruct any attempt by Rupert Murdoch to unite his continental pay-TV businesses with BSkyB in a way that would give him overall control of the British satellite broadcaster.

Sources said such a deal would be likely to prompt opposition from the communications regulator, based on media plurality concerns.

Mail on Sunday

City experts are warning that Lloyds Banking Group plans to unleash fresh waves of closures which could mean hundreds of branches being axed.

The predictions come after Barclays raised fears that it would shut hundreds of branches as part of its cost-cutting plans for its retail bank operations. Barclays boss Antony Jenkins refused to be drawn on how many could close. ($1=0.5938 British pounds) (Compiled by Kate Holton; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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