What The Papers Said

a roundup of sunday business stories
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The Independent Online
n The British Retail Consortium has launched a campaign on behalf of its members, including Tesco, Boots and Kingfisher, against Government attempts to include them in its attacks on Britain's so-called "rip-off culture."

n ICL, the Japanese-owned computer firm, is fighting back against government efforts to blame it for the pounds 640 million failure to develop a swipe card payment system for social security benefits.

n British Midland, the country's second-largest airline, is pressing the Government to revive faltering talks between US and UK designed to open up transatlantic air routes to greater competition.

n London's biggest restaurant will open its doors in Soho this October. Sugar Reef is a 1,000 capacity Creole/Caribbean fusion gastrodome which cost pounds 2.5m to fit out and is owned by Mark Fuller and Jimmy Lahoud.

n Janet Holmes a Court, widow of the Australian tycoon Robert Holmes a Court, has put Stoll Moss Theatres up for sale so that she can return home for a political career. The group owns around half the theatres in London's West End, and the sale is expected to raise up to pounds 100 million.

n Greenalls is working on radical plans to sell off its pubs and restaurant division and rebrand the company as a hotels and health and fitness business.

n RWE, one of Germany's leading utilities, is eyeing Severn Trent water, the second largest water company in the UK. National Power is preparing a pounds 1 billion shareholder payout following the planned sale of its Drax power station in Yorkshire, the largest coal-fired electricity plant in the UK.

n P&O, the shipping group, is planning to bring forward the proposed flotation of its Bovis Construction subsidiary to this autumn rather than next spring.

n Liffe, London's struggling futures exchange, is about to join forces with America's second-largest futures exchange, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). An announcement is set for this week.

n Sir George Mathewson, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, has emerged as the clear favourite to succeed Lord Younger as chairman of the bank when the latter retires in two year's time.

n Apax Partners, the private equity house, is poised to snap up the paper- technology arm of Invensys in a deal of up to pounds 700m.

n The chances of a repeat of the 1980s housing boom is remote, according to Ernst & Young Item Club, as a slowdown in the service sector in the second half of the year is likely to take the heat off prices.

n Asda Chairman and Tory front-bencher Archie Norman is being sounded out as a potential new head of Marks & Spencer.

n Glaxo Wellcome, still reeling from last week's shock profits warning, is heading for a boardroom shake-up in an attempt to avert a dangerous succession crisis. Chairman Sir Richard Sykes, 57 this week, must retire by 60 and no successor has been chosen.

n The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has published a report which warns European economic and monetary union faces the risk of collapse, particularly from potential pressures put on individual member states by rising unemployment.

n Standard Life, the UK's biggest mutual insurer, is planning an assault on Prudential's highly successful Egg operation by launching its own Internet- based savings product in the autumn.

n Nomura, the Japanese investment bank, and brewer Whitbread are considering pounds 1 bn-plus bids for Greenalls, the troubled pub and hotel group.

n Mike Sadnicki and Gordon MacKerron of Sussex University's energy research programme have warned that up to pounds 8 billion earmarked by British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) to clear up the nuclear industry could find its way into shareholder's hands post privatisation.

n A report due from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) could ban financial advisers from branding themselves as "independent" unless they charge a fee and accept no commissions at all for selling products.

n The Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union (MSFU) is leading other unions in a legal challenge to the Government over amendments to European Union directives on working time regulations.

n Water companies are standing by for a wave of bids from foreign utility giants aiming to pick them off on the cheap, following last week's controversial price review by Ian Byatt, the water regulator.

n Drugs giant Glaxo Wellcome is considering spending billions of pounds in a buyback to revive its flagging share price and boost earnings, in the wake of last Thursday's profits warning.

n Retailers may be let off the hook in the Government campaign against "rip-off Britain" because the it has failed to decide on a formula for comparing UK prices with foreign stores.

n Staff at the John Lewis partnership, one of the country's most successful co-operatives, are demanding a referendum on the sale of the department store group which would net them windfalls of pounds 100,000 each.

n East Midlands fraud squad is examining a multi-million pound mis-selling scandal involving 50 victims and an insurer that is now part of Abbey Life, owned by Lloyds TSB.

n Britain's Hilton Group and America's Hilton Corporation are close to a pounds 6 billion merger, reuniting the brand after a 35 year separation.

n The Circle Line could close for good under radical plans by Railtrack to connect the overground rail network directly to London's Tube.

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