What The Papers Said

A roundup of sunday business stories
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The Independent Online
JOHN EDMONDS, the general secretary of the GMB, who attacked company directors as "greedy bastards" last year, will say this week that employers have not been so friendly towards the unions for 20 years. In his keynote address to his union's annual congress he will pay tribute to the growing number of employers who have developed "a real sense of partnership with the trade unions". Last year he labelled executive pay as "the politics of the pig trough".

JOHN PRESCOTT, the Deputy Prime Minister, is expected this week to announce plans to allow Railtrack to take over the running of some London Underground lines and link them with existing railway tracks through new tunnels. The proposals, which may be in return for tougher regulation of Railtrack, would include lines running just above or below the surface including the District and Metropolitan lines.

A BOARDROOM power struggle has broken out at Tomkins, the pounds 3bn food, building products and engineering conglomerate, the paper says. It suggests a battle between the chairman Greg Hutchings and his deputy chairman Ian Duncan, who is pushing boardroom colleagues to appoint him chief executive of the group and reduce Mr Hutchings' role to non-executive chairman.

SHELL AND BP Amoco are attempting to return to the Middle East oil and gas fields from which they were expelled in the Opec revolt against Western domination of the industry in the mid-1970s. Talks are being held at the invitation of the national governments to explore politically acceptable ways of engineering a comeback. In return the national governments want to tap into Western expertise and technology.

A pounds 30BN merger is under discussion between Britain's top three cable television companies, which could include a French or German tie-up. Industry officials confirmed that talks are underway to create a cable giant able to challenge BT and BSkyB in Britain's telecoms and home entertainments markets. The companies involved, Cable & Wireless Communications, Telewest and America's NTL, have invited Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom to consider joining. The three companies want one of the two European telecoms groups to inject about pounds 5bn into the project. Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom are taking the proposal seriously as a way of gaining a foothold in the UK phone market.

MORE THAN 230,000 British policyholders in mutual insurer Sun Life of Canada can look forward to a pounds 3,000 windfall from its flotation next spring. Last week the company's board announced a detailed timetable leading up to its stockmarket launch. The long-awaited pounds 6bn flotation on the London, New York and Toronto stock exchanges will take place in the first quarter of next year. It could also seek a listing in the Philippines, where it has a significant presence.

SMITHKLINE BEECHAM, the pharmaceutical giant, is in talks with Swiss group Novartis to create the world's largest pharmaceutical company, with a market value of more than pounds 110bn. It is understood that top executives from the two companies have met, in what are described as "preliminary" talks since the beginning of February, but have yet to agree terms.

BG, the gas pipeline and exploration arm of the former British Gas, is believed to be preparing to return about pounds 2bn to shareholders in one of the biggest payouts to investors this year. City analysts believe the payout, which could come in the form of a share buy-back or special dividend, will be announced shortly.

RAILTRACK WILL be blocked from taking over the London Underground system in its entirety when the Tube is partly privatised. John Prescott, Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, has told Railtrack it will not be allowed a monopoly, or even a controlling role, in the Tube's future, under strict plans to split up the system.

The Government is considering making radical changes to its new tax- free savings scheme, the individual savings account, two months after its launch. The Inland Revenue has consulted insurance and investment companies about scrapping the maxi and mini ISAs. The review follows criticism of the scheme by the investment industry and surveys showing few consumers understand how ISAs work.