PRESS DIGEST-Sunday British Business - May 18

LONDON Sun May 18, 2014 8:35am EDT

LONDON May 18 (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

PFIZER CONSIDERS LAST-MINUTE SWEETENER TO WIN OVER ASTRA

Pfizer is weighing up a dramatic last-minute increase in its offer for rival AstraZeneca. Pfizer executives are also in talks with the Department for Business about extending the length of their commitment to keep research facilities in Britain from five tears to 10.

Separately, the coalition government is in "early stage" talks with Brussels about a widening of the public interest test for takeovers that would let the deal go ahead only if Pfizer gave the right guarantees

AMERICANS LINE UP 10.5 BILLION POUND GRAB FOR BOOTS

American drugstore giant Walgreen is examining a 10.5 billion pound ($17.7 billion) takeover of Alliance Boots, Britain's largest chain of high street pharmacies, in the latest deal to be driven by tax flight from the U.S.

MAIL SET FOR BIG WINDFALL FROM 1 BILLION POUND ZOOPLA FLOAT

Zoopla is poised for a stock market float that will value the property website at about 1 billion pounds. The seven-year-old company is set to unveil its plans to go public this week.

The offering will represent a coup for the Daily Mail and General Trust which controls 51 percent of the company.

LLOYDS FEARS BIG LOSS ON TSB FLOAT

Lloyds Banking Group is bracing itself for a loss of up to 500 million pounds on its imminent stock market float of challenger bank TSB.

Early test marketing with investors has indicated that it could be forced to sell the business at a knock-down price. It may even have to list the first 25 percent stake in the bank for less than its current book value -- which would create a huge write-off.

--

The Sunday Telegraph

M&S BIDS TO SOOTHE INVESTORS

Marks and Spencer will move to appease investors underwhelmed by the retailer's performance by hinting it is to boost shareholder returns and focus on improving profit margins.

The 130-year-old retailer will this week reveal it has suffered a third year of declining profits. The clothing and food chain is expected by the City to report a decline in its headline annual pre-tax profits of almost 8 percent to 615 million pounds.

PROFIT SURGE TO PUT SSE UNDER PRESSURE FOR PRICE CUTS

Energy giant SSE is braced for calls to cut prices this week when it is expected to reveal its profits surged 9 percent to 1.54 billion pounds last year.

Britain's second largest energy supplier announced in March that it would freeze prices until 2016.

PRIVATE EQUITY GROUPS CIRCLE PIZZA EXPRESS

Pizza Express has attracted interest from a number of large private equity groups with bids starting at 1 billion pounds. Company owner Cinven is using bankers from Rothschild and Goldman Sachs to advise on an exit, with first round bids lodged late last week.

--

Observer

MINISTERS SEEK HELP FROM BRUSSELS OVER PFIZER BID

British ministers have opened talks in Brussels about strengthening the UK's ability to force American firm Pfizer to honour commitments on jobs and research in its proposed takeover of AstraZeneca

MPS TO PROBE SERCO OVER SEX ASSAULT CLAIM

Members of parliament are to investigate outsourcing company Serco after it was forced to disclose a secret internal report revealing evidence that it failed to properly investigate a claim of repeated sexual assaults against a female resident at Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, said he would be summoning senior Serco figures to parliament next month to explain their actions.

--

The Mail on Sunday

PFIZER TO SWEETEN BID BILL WITH 67 BILLION POUND OFFER

American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is understood to be putting the final touches to an improved bid for AstraZeneca which is expected to value the British drugs giant at 67 billion pounds.

Shareholders are understood to be demanding at least 53 pounds a share which would value AstraZeneca at 67 billion pounds.

RYANAIR PLANS BOND ISSUE

Ryanair will report its first fall in profits in five years on Monday but it could also announce a 1 billion euro ($1.37 billion) bond issue to pay for new planes. In September it will take delivery of the first of 175 new aircraft from Boeing and the City expects a bond issue to finance the 737-800s, broker Cantor believes. ($1 = 0.5942 British Pounds) ($1 = 0.7297 Euros) (Writing by Keith Weir, 44 20 7542 8022)

FILED UNDER: