Top 10 Stories of the Week 11/04/16

Below are our top 10 stories that you need to know about. Be sure to check our twitter page for regular posts of important headlines. Click on the links for full stories.

Opinion articles of the week:

Lloyds Banking Group has warned a UK vote to leave the EU would cause short term “economic uncertainty”. Click here for more.

Protectionism was a mistake 80 years ago. Is the world now set to repeat it? Click here for the debate.

City A.M’s Tim Worstall argues that “stereotypical” politicians should not get involved in whether the London Stock Exchange merger with the German Deutsche Boerse goes ahead or not. Click here for his argument.

 

PANAMA PAPERS

In case you missed it, here is everything you need to know about the Panama Papers . (BBC News)

For a more in depth analysis of the papers, have a look at the Financial Times’ analysis.

 

1. INTEREST RATES

The Bank of England has warned the EU referendum could hurt growth in the first half of this year as it held interest rates at 0.5%.

All nine members of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted to keep rates at their record low, where they have now been for over seven years.

The Bank warned uncertainty over the EU referendum could cause “some softening” in growth in the first half of 2016.

It said sterling had also been affected by the uncertainty ahead of the vote. (BBC News)

2. HOUSE PRICES

Growth in UK house prices slowed in the year to February, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The annual rate slowed to 7.6% compared with 7.9% in the year to January, the ONS said.

Price increases were particularly strong in the East and South West of England, where the ONS index reached a record high.Scotland remained the weakest part of the country, with prices falling by 0.8% over the 12 month period.

The average cost of a house or flat is now £283,658, according to the ONS. (BBC News)

3. FRUITLESS OIL PRODUCTION TALKS

A meeting of the world’s leading oil exporters to discuss capping production has ended without agreement.

After hours of talks in Qatar, the country’s energy minister Mohammed bin Saleh al-Sada said that the oil producers needed “more time”.

Most members of the Opec producers’ group, plus other oil exporters including Russia, attended the talks.

They wanted a deal that would freeze output and help stem the plunge in crude prices over the past 18 months. Talks hit difficulties earlier on Sunday as reports emerged of tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran did not attend the meeting.

Oil prices tumbled in Asian trading as a result, with the price of both US and London crude oil down more than 5%. (BBC News)

 4. TATA STEEL

Tata Steel has agreed the sale of its UK long products business to investment group Greybull Capital for £1 in a deal that will revive the British Steel brand and could save 4,400 jobs.

The deal will keep open a steelworks in Scunthorpe, two mills in Teesside, an engineering workshop in Workington, a design consultancy in York, and associated distribution facilities, as well as a mill in northern France.

Tata has been in talks with Greybull since late 2015 on the sale of its long products business. The agreement does not include the Port Talbot steelworks or the rest of Tata’s UK business, which employs about 15,000 staff, for which it is seeking a buyer after putting it put for sale last month.

The firm will be renamed British Steel, a brand which disappeared in 1999 with the creation of Corus, which was later bought by Tata.

Greybull will only pay a “nominal” fee for Tata’s Long Products Europe (LPE) division because it has agreed to taken on the firm’s liabilities and put together a £400m funding package to keep the business going. A loan from the government on commercial terms could form part of this funding package. (The Guardian)

5. GOLDMAN SACHS FINED

Goldman Sachs will pay $5.06bn for its role in the 2008 financial crisis, the US Department of Justice said on Monday. The settlement, over the sale of mortgage-backed securities from 2005 to 2007, was first announced in January.

“This resolution holds Goldman Sachs accountable for its serious misconduct in falsely assuring investors that securities it sold were backed by sound mortgages, when it knew that they were full of mortgages that were likely to fail,” acting associate attorney general Stuart Delery said in a statement.

In January, Goldman said it expected the agreement to reduce its earnings for the fourth quarter by about $1.5bn after tax. According to the Wall Street bank, the settlement will consist of a $2.385bn civil monetary penalty, $875m in cash payments, and $1.8bn in consumer relief.

Among other measures, the bank will offer a reduction in unpaid principal for affected homeowners and borrowers. (The Guardian)

6. UK’S CALLS FOR 02 & THREE MERGER BLOCK

Britain’s competition regulator has called on the European commission to block the owner of Three’s £10.25bn acquisition of O2, or force the combined mobile phone operator to break itself up to protect consumers.

Hutchison Whampoa, the Hong Kong conglomerate that owns Three, agreed in March 2015 to buy O2 from Telefónica of Spain. The deal would create Britain’s biggest mobile phone company and reduce the number of UK network owners from four to three: Hutchison, BT and Vodafone.

In October, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority asked the commission to refer the acquisition to it but in December the commission turned down the request, saying it was better qualified to apply European rules.

The CMA had argued that fewer mobile operators would lead to higher prices or worse service for British consumers. The commission acknowledged this was possible but said it would impose measures to protect consumers. The CMA has seen the proposals but they have not been made public. (The Guardian)

 7. TESCO

Tesco returned to profit for the year from Mr Lewis hailed the supermarket’s £162m statutory pre-tax profit for the year to 27 February, compared to last year’s £6.3bn loss, as “significant progress”.

Despite this, Chief Executive Dave Lewis warned that profit improvement would slow in the first half of this year.  He also warned the group’s “recovery will not be in a straight line as some people might want”. The market remains “challenging, deflationary and uncertain,” he added. He said that continued price cuts, needed to remain competitive, would slow its profit improvement “particularly in the first half”.

Tesco’s shares, which have risen almost 30% this year, fell 7.8% to 181p in response to these comments. (BBC News)

For a timeline of Tesco’s up’s and downs from the early 2000’s click here. (BBC News)

8. MICROSOFT SUE US GOVERNMENT

Microsoft is suing the US government over the right to tell its users when federal agencies want access to private data. It says keeping access requests secret is against the US constitution, which states that individuals should be made aware if the government searches or seizes their property.

Microsoft said 5,624 requests for data were made in the past 18 months, and almost half came with a court order forcing the company to keep the demand secret. Microsoft added that it felt the government “exploited the transition to cloud computing as a means of expanding its power to conduct secret investigations”.

The US Department of Justice has not yet commented. (BBC News)

 9. VUE CINEMA IPO

Cinema chain Vue is considering a market flotation next year.

The initial public offering (IPO) plan comes after a strong period for the group, helped by Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the latest James Bond film, Spectre.

News of the planned float offers further encouragement that the market is recovering from a slow start to the year. The flotation is expected to value the company at around £1.7bn. It has been reported that accounting firm PwC has been hired to advise on the potential listing.

Last month, Vue reported record full-year results after group turnover increased by 17.4 per cent to £180.6m in its last quarter, to 26 November. And Vue said the first quarter of 2016 had a “record-breaking start driven by the success of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and Deadpool”. (City A.M)

10. PREMIER LEAGUE REVENUE

Premier League football clubs saw their combined revenues increase by 3% in 2014-15 to £3.4bn, a new record, according to business group Deloitte.

But their combined pre-tax profits fell to £120m, from £190m a year before.

Season 2014-15 saw the second-biggest aggregate pre-tax profit, after record-breaking results in 2013-14. It was also the first time this millennium that there had been a second successive year of combined pre-tax profits for the top-flight teams. (BBC News)

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