Market whispers

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The Independent Online
Off-licence chain Unwins might have been keen to sell up - but apparently no one felt the same about buying it. When the family-controlled retailer put itself up for sale last year, DM Private Equity and Oddbins owner Castel were both interested. But the family has now run out of patience with the slow rate of progress and lack of bids - and so has agreed an estimated pounds 32m leaseback deal instead. Those sale hopes have not been abandoned, though. As an insider at the chiller cabinet concedes: "If someone turned up with a big bag of cash tomorrow, I don't think it would be turned down."

Royal Bank of Scotland boss Sir Fred Goodwin recently withdrew a libel action against The Sunday Times, launched after diary articles claimed he behaved in a grandiose way. Maybe, though, Sir Fred should have taken his own advice and avoided the whole unsavoury business in the first place. Back in 2000, he was quoted as saying: "If you get terribly hurt and bruised when somebody criticises you, or calls you a name, then I'd recommend you not being a chief executive of anything." And with whom did he share this wisdom? The Sunday Times, of course.

We might not know Allan Leighton's secret plans for the Royal Mail, but at least we now know what Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt thinks of post office closures. The Independent on Sunday asked the DTI to disclose minutes of a meeting between the two prior to Mr Leighton's reappointment as chairman. Most of it was blanked out due to "commercial interests". But the bits the DTI did disclose reveal Ms Hewitt has some strange views. "Secretary of State stated urban closures are not as severe as expected and her experience of handling the closures was generally positive."

Yet more speculation about Argos-owner GUS. Rumour has long had it that it will spin off its credit-checking business Experian. The chatter got louder last week when Don Robert was named global chief executive of Experian. GUS says this new post is unconnected to any such plans; others are predicting an announcement by May.

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