Review of the Year: Merger mania gives the City a Christmas to celebrate

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The Independent Online

January

Dixons, Morrisons, Argos and others warn investors Christmas 2004 was a difficult one. But Tesco had an excellent festive season, reaffirming its dominance as the country's biggest and most profitable retailer.

BP says it will narrowly miss its production target for 2004 and take a $2bn (£1.2bn) charge to exit petrochemical businesses.

The London Stock Exchange again rejects a 530p-a-share takeover proposal from Deutsche Börse that was conditional on a recommendation from the LSE board.

Allders, the heavily loss-making department stores group, collapses into administration.

The Government is reported to have offered to pay a £100m "dowry" to ensure the Chinese groupShanghai Automotive signs a joint venture deal with the car maker MG Rover.

The defence contractor BAE Systems announces plans to axe almost 1,400 jobs at 13 sites across Britain.

February

Shell shocks investors with fifth downgrade to its "proven" oil and gas reserves in just over 12 months.

Deutsche Bank plans to axe 6,000 jobs worldwide, including more than 1,000 in London.

Landsbanki, the Icelandic bank, buys the UK stockbroker Teather & Greenwood for £43m.

EMI shares plummet after it says new albums from Coldplay and Gorillaz will be delayed.

Euronext pledges to take a joint listing in London if its bid for the London Stock Exchange succeeds.

Woolworths rejects an indicative bid from the private-equity firm Apax, valuing it at between 50p to 55p a share.

Wembley, the gaming company, says it will sell off its US business and its UK dog tracks, leaving it with no assets other than its name.

Baugur, the Icelandic investor, offers 190p a share for the Somerfield supermarket group, equivalent to £1.03bn.

Statistics confirm Christmas retail sales were flat for the first time in 10 years.

Government announces Britain's postal service will be opened to full competition from January 2006 after 370 years with the Royal Mail.

March

The price of oil hits a fresh high of $51.95 a barrel in London.

Banking group HSBC announces £10bn profits - the largest in British corporate history.

Citigroup, the world's biggest bank, says it will cut 1,400 jobs.

William Hill says it will return £453m cash to shareholders after a Government U-turn on the Gambling Bill scuppers its plans to expand in the casino market.

Insurer Aviva unveils an agreed £1.1bn takeover of the car breakdown rescue group RAC.

British Airways names Willie Walsh as chief executive to replace Sir Rod Eddington in the autumn.

The mining group Xstrata is trumped by a £3.8bn bid from BHP Billiton for WMC Resources.

Deutsche Börse withdraws its 530p-a-share offer for the London Stock Exchange after being told it needs to bid more than 600p. The LSE holds fresh talks with Euronext.

BAE Systems unveils a $4bn acquisition of its US rival United Defense Industries.

Vodafone has revealed it is in talks to pay about $3.5bn for two telephonebusinesses in Romania and the Czech Republic.

The Icelandic group Bakkavör pays £485m for Geest, one of the UK's largest food suppliers.

The insurance giant Prudential ousts Jonathan Bloomer and names Mark Tucker as chief executive.

Morrisons issues its third profits warning since buying Safeway and axes its finance director.

British Energy dumps its chief executive Mike Alexander two months after he completed the restructuring and re-listed the company's shares. He is replaced by Bill Coley.

April

MG Rover, the last independent volume car maker in the UK, calls in the administrators.

The Gadget Shop throws in the towel, closing its remaining 45 stores.

Tesco announces record annual profits for a British retailer - £2bn.

Nicola Horlick, the City's best-known fund manager, fights off a gun-wielding mugger outside her Kensington home.

Britain's biggest insurance broker, Marsh, cuts 750 UK jobs and rejigs its pricing model in the wake of the Spitzer settlement last year.

Canadian regulators usher in a new era in pain management by approving a cannabis-based medicine for use by multiple sclerosis patients.

Eurotunnel warns that unless it can reschedule £6.4bn in debt it will run out of money in 2007.

Marconi's hopes of revival are shattered after the company is dumped by BT, its biggest customer.

Maiden flight for Airbus's A380 super-jumbo.

BP announces record first-quarter profits of $5.5bn, while Amazon reports a 30 per cent fall in first-quarter profits.

May

US telecoms firm MCI agrees to be acquired by Verizon for $8.5bn, rejecting a 15 per cent higher offer from Qwest.

IBM announces 13,000 job cuts in Western Europe.

Lord Hollick's 31-year reign at United Business Media ends on a sour note, after an unprecedented 76 per cent of investors vote against his £250,000 bonus, which he eventually waives.

Hedge funds nurse big losses after bonds of General Motors and Ford are downgraded to "junk" .

Werner Seifert, the chief executive of Deutsche Börse, is ousted after a shareholder revolt against its bid for the LSE.

Shareholders in Absa, South Africa's biggest retail bank, accept a £2.9bn offer from Barclays for a 60 per cent stake.

AP Moeller-Maersk, the world's largest container-shipping company, buys P&O Nedlloyd in a €2.3bn (£1.6bn) deal.

Sabre, the owner of Travelocity, buys lastminute.com for £577m.

Pascal Lamy is named as next director-general of the World Trade Organisation.

In Germany's largest-ever private-equity deal, an arm of Terra Firma buys Viterra, the property unit of the utility E.ON.

The Home Secretary approves the extradition to the US of three former NatWest bankers on Enron-related fraud charges. The three appeal.

Pfizer, the drug company that makes Viagra, faces a barrage of lawsuits in the US after claims that its impotence drug could cause blindness.

A Russian court sentences Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of the Russian oil giant Yukos, to nine years in jail after finding him guilty of fraud and tax evasion.

June

Pernod Ricard sells its Irish Bushmills whiskey to Diageo for €295m.

Google overtakes Time Warner to become the world's most valuable media company.

The EU imposes quotas on Chinese textiles as imports surge in the wake of trade reforms.

John Mack, the US banker, pulls off one of the biggest career comebacks in the history of Wall Street with his appointment as chairman and chief executive of Morgan Stanley to replace Philip Purcell.

UniCredito, Italy's largest bank, finalises a €15.4bn takeover of Germany's HVB, Europe's largest cross-border banking merger.

The food group RHM unveils a £1.3bn float.

PartyGaming, the world's largest poker website, floats in London.

Citigroup is fined a record £14m by the Financial Services Authority over controversial bond trades.

Bank of America agrees a $35bn deal to buy MBNA, the credit card issuer.

July

Lord King of Wartnaby, the man who masterminded British Airways's privatisation, dies aged 87.

Nanjing Automobile buys the assets of MG Rover.

Baugur's chief executive Jon Asgeir Johannesson, is charged on 40 counts of fraud, forcing the Icelandic group pull out of the bid battle for Somerfield.

The bomb attacks in London stun the City, wiping more than £44bn off the stock market as the FTSE 100 suffers its steepest fall since the start of the Iraq war, down 207.5 points.

Hewlett-Packard, the embattled computer maker, sheds 14,500 jobs about the world to try to cut $2bn off its cost base.

Gordon Brown alters the official starting date of the economic cycle to stop him breaking his "golden rule" on balancing the books.

China gives way to mounting political and economic pressures by scrapping its currency peg to the dollar, revaluing the yuan and paving the way for further exchange rate rises.

France's Saint-Gobain announces bid for BPB.

August

China's Cnooc abandons its $18.5bn (£10.5bn) bid for Unocal, the US oil group.

Adidas-Salomon, the German sports goods company, springs a $3.8bn takeover of Reebok.

James Murdoch, the chief executive of BSkyB, dismisses suggestions that he might move to News Corporation after the resignation of his elder brother, Lachlan.

Jorma Ollila, the departing chief executive of Nokia, becomes Royal Dutch Shell's first non-executive chairman who is neither British nor Dutch.

Macquarie Bank, the Australian investment bank, mulls a bid for the London Stock Exchange.

The founders of Ottakar's begin talks on a £74m buyout of the book retailer.

Cable & Wireless swallows Energis for £780m.

Sir Gerry Robinson, the former Granada chief, makes a move on Rentokil.

Oil prices hit record $70.85 in New York after Hurricane Katrina ravages production facilities along the Gulf of Mexico, as the US experienced its worst hurricane season on record.

Scotland's biggest independent brewery Belhaven bows to £254m takeover bid from Greene King.

September

Old Mutual reveals potential £3.1bn takeover of Sweden's Skandia.

Cadbury Schweppes begins the long-awaited auction of its European drinks business to cut its £4.3bn debt burden.

All fraud charges against Baugur's boss Jon Asgeir Johannesson are thrown out.

E.ON, the German energy group, reveals it may make an £11bn all-cash offer for ScottishPower.

HMV out-trumps Ottakar's management with a £96.4m offer. The deal is later referred to the Competition Commission.

The online auctioneer eBay buys the internet phone firm Skype for $4bn.

Delta and Northwest, the American airlines, file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

David Mansfield is sacked as chief executive of GCap Media, the owner of Classic FM and Capital Radio, just five months after taking up the role.

Deutsche Post swallows Exel, the logistics group, in a £3.7bn deal.

October

The retail entrepreneur Philip Green pays his family a £1.2bn dividend from his fashion group Arcadia.

Sweden's Ericsson snaps up most of the British telecoms equipment maker Marconi for £1.2bn.

Boots unveils £7bn merger with Alliance UniChem.

NTL seals its long-awaited takeover of the rival UK cable operator Telewest.

The mobile phone group Vodafone bought 10 per cent of India's Bharti Tele-Ventures for £841m.

The US brokerage and clearance house Refco files for bankruptcy protection. The UK hedge fund manager Man Securities eventually buys its regulated futures business for £190m.

Sir Gerry Robinson drops bid for Rentokil.

Hilton Group reveals it is in talks to sell its hotels business to its US namesake.

Railtrack shareholders lose their £157m compensation claim against the Government over the company's collapse.

Somerfield supermarket accepts a £1.1bn takeover by a consortium led by Barclays Capital.

The fashion retailer Burberry appoints New York fashionista Angela Ahrendts as its new chief executive.

In a single day, £25bn of deals are unveiled: the mobile phone operator O2 agrees to a £17.7bn takeover by Spain's Telefónica, Dubai's DP World bids £3.3bn for the ports operator P&O, the glass maker Pilkington gets an approach from Nippon Sheet Glass and the retailer Peacocks announces a £404m management buyout.

November

ScottishPower snubs an £11bn takeover offer from the German utility E.ON.

The mobile phone operator Vodafone breaks off its £36m sponsorship deal with Manchester United.

The plasterboard maker BPB recommends a £3.9bn cash-and-shares offer from France's Saint Gobain.

A copper trader for the Chinese government said to have shorted 200,000 tonnes of the metal disappeared, sending copper prices to record highs.

The entrepreneur John Caudwell puts his entire £1bn business empire - which includes Phones 4U - up for sale.

The fund manager New Star is valued at almost £700m after its first day on the London stock market.

The Financial Services Authority cleared the former chairman of Shell, Sir Philip Watts, of any wrongdoing over the oil company's reserves scandal.

December

The London Stock Exchange dismisses a £1.5bn hostile bid from Macquarie.

The off-licence chain Unwins collapses.

All charges against Sir Tom Hunter and Chris Gorman brought by their former business partners in The Gadget Shop are dismissed in the High Court.

Virgin Mobile turns down an £817m bid from the cable television company NTL, despite Sir Richard Branson's eagerness for a deal.

WTO talks in Hong Kong end with a limited deal that could allow a global free trade treaty in 2006.

ITV agrees to buy Friends Reunited, the website that puts old pals back in touch, for £175m.

China revises its economic output upwards, leaving it set to overtake the UK this year as the world's fourth-largest economy.

Two former Mirror journalists, known as the City Slickers, are convicted of market manipulation.

Up to 1,000 City workers are expected to earn more than £1m in bonuses as investment bankers reap the rewards of a 40 per cent rise in the value of mergers and acquistions during the year.

Lord Turner recommends the retirement age be raised to 67.

Daily Mail & General Trust put its Northcliffe regional newspapers business up for sale.

Gold fetches more than $500 an ounce for the first time in 18 years.

The European Central Bank raised interest rates for the time in five years, to 2.25 per cent.

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