What The Papers Said

a roundup of sunday business stories

MANCHESTER UNITED is likely to be taken private if the horseracing tycoon who is leading the race to control the Treble-winning quoted football club succeeds. John Magnier, the racehorse breeder and owner who owns the Coolmore Stud in Ireland, would not welcome the intense public scrutiny that being involved in a public company would involve.

n The pounds 40,000-plus windfalls being offered to policy holders with Scottish Widows pending its acquisition by Lloyds TSB has spurred a rush into investment products offered by other mutual insurers that may be demutualised, such as Standard Life and Equitable. It has also created the phenomenon of "insider carpetbagging", where employees of mutuals are allowed to buy products at a discount.

n DAIMLER-CHRYSLER, the German-American motor giant, is poised to buy a 50 per cent stake in the MacLaren Formula One racing team from Mansour Ojjeh, a Saudi billionaire, and Ron Dennis, head of the Grand Prix team. The price is thought to be around pounds 300m.

n Sun Life & Provincial Holdings is prepared to sell for more than pounds 600m the life insurance business it acquired as part of its pounds 3.3bn takeover of Guardian Royal Exchange in February.

n Kingston Communications, the Hull-based telephone operator, makes its stockmarket debut today with a higher than expected valuation of pounds 790m. Shares in the offer, which was more than 10-times oversubscribed, are expected to be priced at 225p and to rise to about 270p on the day.

n Danny Rosenkranz, the chief executive of BOC, will receive a pounds 7m payoff if his company falls to a pounds 7bn break-up bid from Air Liquide of France and Air Products and Chemicals of the US, expected as early as this week.

n GREG HUTCHINGS will announce today that he is splitting Tomkins, one for Britain's few remaining industrial conglomerates, in two. The guns- to-buns group plans to demerge its Rank Hovis McDougall food arm as a separate quoted company early next year.

n Directors of BOC, the world's second-largest industrial gases group, will tomorrow bow to a pounds 7.2bn break-up bid by France's Air Liquide and its American ally Air Products and Chemicals.

n Members of the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) will this week receive offers of up to pounds 60,000 each when Nicola Foulston, chief executive of Brands Hatch Leisure, tables a formal pounds 43m bid for Silverstone.

n MIRROR GROUP is expected to agree a deal valuing it at pounds 1.3bn with Trinity International Holdings as early as this week, to create Europe's biggest newspaper publisher by circulation and end months of uncertainty about its future.

n Ian Duncan, deputy chairman of Britain's last conglomerate, Tomkins, is expected to take charge of Rank Hovis McDougall when the food business is spun off in a planned pounds 1.8bn demerger early next year.

n The euro is likely to fall further against the dollar and could go below parity, said Joe Lewis, the Bahamas-based billionaire, who blames the unwillingness of European governments to push through structural reforms.

n CONTROVERSIAL dealmaker Philip Green is considering an audacious takeover bid for either Marks & Spencer or J Sainsbury. Mr Green believes he can launch such a bid following his recent sale of the entire Sears retail chain for a pounds 150m profit - only six months after he bought it for pounds 550m - with the help of the reclusive billionaire Barclay brothers.

n Punch taverns entrepreneur Hugh Osmond has called a surprise halt in the bitter bidding war with Whitbread for Allied Domecq's 3,500 pubs. The 36-year-old industry upstart ruled out any further bids before Allied's 70,000 shareholders vote on 23 July.

n Pearson, the media group, which owns Penguin books and the Financial Times, plans to sell its television business. The business produces some of Britain's most popular series such as "The Bill" and "Neighbours", and analysts value it at pounds 1.2 bn, excluding its 5 per cent stake in BSkyB but including its 24 per cent stake in Channel 5.

n THE LONG-AWAITED consolidation of the UK cable TV business will take a giant leap forward this week with the merger of Cable & Wireless Communications (C&WC) and NTL. C&WC had been widely expected to merge with the UK's third largest cable player Telewest.

n Whitbread has rejected pressure for a further increase in its pounds 2.85 bn offer for Allied Domecq's 3,500 pubs. The battle for control of the pub empire will end next week when Allied shareholders decide whether to back Whitbread or opt for a pounds 2.9bn offer from Punch Taverns.

n Power giant Eastern Energy has held talks with European utilities, including France's EdF and Germany's RWE, about deals to trade electricity and gas in a bid to capture up to 25 per cent of the European energy trading market within five years.

n SAFEWAY WILL ignite a supermarket price war today when it announces a total of pounds 30m reductions on 1,000 products in an attempt to boost flagging sales. It is likely to herald a new round of price cutting among supermarkets currently under investigation by the Competition Commission over allegations that they are overcharging shoppers by as much as 40 per cent.

n Children's TV broadcasters may ask Chris Smith, Minister of Culture, to scrutinise the proposed launch of the BBC's kids digital channel. Companies including Fox Kids UK, Carlton Kids and Nickleodean claim that the BBC is using licence fees unfairly.

n Steve Cain, Carlton's chief executive, is being lined up to take over at ONdigital, the terrestrial TV venture, should chief executive Stephen Grabiner resign. The City is awash with speculation that Mr Grabiner, who launched the TV service in November, has fallen out with ONdigital chairman Michael Green. Mr Green's TV and film company Carlton is a joint partner with Granada in the fledgling business.

n More than 15,000 employees of Midland Bank, now called HSBC, will share a pounds 153m payout later this month when the company's five-year save-as-you- earn share option scheme matures. Some will receive cheques of pounds 60,000 while the average payout will be pounds 10,000.

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