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Friday newspaper round-up: OBR, Brexit, Tory coup, energy cap, Tesco

Fri 06 October 2017 07:05 | A A A

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(ShareCast News) - A severe revision to UK growth forecasts will drastically cut Phillip Hammond's wiggle-room in the upcoming Budget. A dramatic over-estimation of the UK's productivity levels over the past seven years by fiscal watchdog, the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), means the Chancellor of the Exchequer's room for spending could be reduced by as much as two-thirds. - Telegraph

The US is leading a group of countries challenging Britain's plans to retain EU import restrictions on agricultural goods after Brexit. The intervention threatens to scupper what the government had hoped would be one of the more straightforward aspects of Brexit: the technical process of re-establishing a standalone presence at the World Trade Organisation, the Geneva-based body that governs global trade. - The Times

Britain will refuse to tell Europe how much it is prepared to pay to settle the so-called "Brexit bill" when Brexit negotiations re-open in Brussels next week, the Telegraph can reveal, in a move that risks plunging the Brexit talks into fresh crisis. The British move comes as doubts emerged across Europe that Theresa May has the political clout to seal a Brexit deal following her disastrous party conference speech and public disagreements with Boris Johnson. - Telegraph

Theresa May came under further pressure on Thursday, with a group of rebel MPs seeking advice on a potential challenge from those involved in the last successful coup against a Tory leader and a former party chairman urging her to call a leadership election. The critics have been told by those who organised against Iain Duncan Smith in 2003 that "patience is key" if they hope to oust the prime minister after this week's accident-prone conference speech. - Guardian

A former Conservative Party chairman has admitted to helping lead dozens of rebel MPs in a plot to oust the prime minister. Grant Shapps was identified by Theresa May loyalists before a febrile weekend in which MPs will be canvassed by the mutinous group and by government whips over whether Mrs May should remain in post. He told The Times last night: "I think having lost an election the party must look for a new leader to take us forward."

Spain's prime minister threatened yesterday to introduce direct rule in Catalonia as the region's leaders pressed their demands for independence. In his first interview since Sunday's referendum on secession from Spain, Mariano Rajoy warned that Madrid could invoke a clause in the constitution suspending the region's autonomy if Carles Puigdemont, the Catalan leader, declared independence. - The Times

Energy industry figures have said it is virtually impossible for Theresa May's wide-ranging cap on energy bills to take effect this winter, as ministers suggested bills for some consumers could be capped within months. Draft legislation will be published next week to help the regulator Ofgem cap prices for the 12m households in England, Wales and Scotland on standard variable tariffs, the poor value deals that apply to the 70% of people not on special deals or whose special deals have ended. - The Guardian

The bosses of seven of the UK's largest wholesalers have come out fighting against Tesco's mooted £3.7bn takeover of Booker and called on the competition watchdog to block the deal outright. Their fiery opposition to the takeover, which they argue "threatens the survival of the independent retailer", comes just a day after Tesco boss Dave Lewis reasserted his confidence in the Booker takeover remaining on track. - Telegraph

Anglo-Dutch consumer group Unilever has invited private equity bidders to submit tentative offers for its $8bn (£6.1bn) by a deadline of Oct 19, according to two sources close to the matter. The sale of the business, which makes Flora and Stork margarines, officially kicked off in late September with Unilever's banks sending out confidential information to a series of heavyweight buyout funds which have been working on this deal since the start of the summer, the sources said. - Telegraph/Reuters

The Royal Navy could be stripped of its ability to attack enemy-held beaches under cost-cutting plans, it has been reported. The navy's two amphibious assault ships, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, could be taken out of service in a new round of cuts to the armed forces, the BBC's Newsnight said on Thursday. - Guardian/Press Association

The European Central Bank has signalled that it may keep its quantitative easing programme going until the end of next year in an attempt to reassure markets that stimulus will not be withdrawn rapidly and to cap any further strengthening of the euro. A decision on how to handle the tapering of its $60 billion-a-month QE programme is expected after the governing council's next meeting on October 26. The ECB is almost certain to start reducing its asset purchases from January. - The Times

Sky faces a potentially bruising annual meeting next week after shareholders were urged to vote against the reappointment of James Murdoch as chairman and "excessive" rewards for executives. The shareholder advisory services ISS, Pirc and Glass Lewis have concerns about Mr Murdoch's independence at Sky while it is the subject of an £11.7 billion bid by 21st Century Fox, where he is chief executive. - The Times

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has apologised to pilots, and offered them pay increases and improved job security to remain at the airline. The apology comes just days after it emerged that a letter was circulating among Ryanair's pilots encouraging support for an unofficial union to challenge the airline's working practices. - Telegraph

Mike Ashley's Sports Direct has closed almost half of its concessions in Debenhams stores but said that it was still "committed" to its partnership with the department store group. Britain's biggest sportswear retailer has shut four out of nine concessions, including two in Debenhams' main store on Oxford Street, London, a story first reported by Bloomberg. - The Times

A Dutch business services company has announced plans for what could be one of the largest City IPOs of the year, saying that it will move its headquarters to London from Amsterdam. TMF Group hopes to secure a valuation of about €1.4 billion when it lists on the London stock market next month in a deal that the private equity-backed company is using to raise €340 million to pay down debt. - The Times

An energy-to-metals group owned by one of Russia's richest men has announced plans for a London listing that could raise as much as $1.5 billion when it floats next month. En+ Group said yesterday that it would raise $1 billion for itself through a listing in Moscow and London, while its owner could raise a further $500 million from the sale of existing shares in what would mark the biggest Russian IPO since sanctions were imposed on the country three years ago. - The Times

Amazon is to push deeper into the parcel distribution business in America with a plan to increase its control over shipping by private sellers. Many private merchants who sell goods on Amazon's marketplace ship them directly from their warehouses to customers using distributors such as UPS and FedEx. - The Times

Donald Trump has accused Iran of not living up to the "spirit of the agreement" of its nuclear deal amid reports that he plans to withhold endorsement of the landmark agreement with the international community. At a meeting of military leaders, Trump warned cryptically that those present were witnessing "the calm before the storm". - Guardian

The youth media brand Vice, recently valued at $5.7bn (£4.3bn) by a private equity cash injection, has revealed a sharp increase in losses at its British arm as it counts the cost of a move into traditional television. Vice UK reported a pre-tax loss of £9.7m for 2016, compared with a loss of less than £300,000 in the prior year. - Telegraph

Nick D'Aloisio, the British tech wunderkind who sold his news app Summly to Yahoo for a reported $30 million when he was 17, has raised funding for a new start-up. Mr D'Aloisio, 21, who is studying for a philosophy and computer studies degree at the University of Oxford, achieved a valuation of about £11.8 million for his company Sphere Knowledge from a combined seed and Series A funding round, according to a filing at Companies House. - The Times

Amsterdam is banning new shops targeting tourists in the city's historic centre in the latest attempt to reclaim it for residents. The city government announced on Thursday that ticket shops, bike rental companies, cheese shops and other retailers or attractions catering mainly or exclusively for tourists would be prevented from opening in parts of the Centre district. - Guardian

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