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Unilever has announced plans to ditch PricewaterhouseCoopers after 27 years and is set to move its  £18 million a year audit to rival KPMG.

A Weekly Digest of The World's Financial Press: The Economist

On the proposed merger between Deutsche Telekom and Telecom Italia

700 jobs to go at East Midlands

POWERGEN yesterday said 700 jobs were to be cut over the next two years at East Midlands Electricity under its restructuring plans for the regional supplier.

GOING DOWN: Smiths Industries

SHARES of Smiths Industries fell 15 per cent, on disappointment that first-half profit growth came only from its aerospace business. This grew by 42 per cent, but the other two businesses, which produce ventilation and other industrial equipment and hospital supplies, saw little growth.

US may ease merger rules

THE UNITED STATES will consider raising the thresholds for mergers that must be notified to its competition authorities, easing the way for takeover activity.

Byers to take politics out of merger decisions

SWEEPING PLANS to take the politics out of merger decisions by allowing independent competition authorities to rule on whether takeover bids should be blocked or allowed through were unveiled yesterday by the Government.

Football: League snubs fans' plea

THE PREMIER League has rejected calls from fans' groups to oppose BSkyB's proposed pounds 623.4m takeover of Manchester United. The Football Supporters' Association and the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association want the League to back their fight against the satellite broadcaster.

UK claws back electricity deal

THE pounds 1.9bn takeover of London Electricity by the state-owned group Electricite de France ran into trouble yesterday after the Government asked Brussels to hand back responsibility for investigating the deal to the UK competition authorities.

Outlook: London Electric

LONDON ELECTRICITY is about to swop one foreign owner, Entergy of Louisiana, for another, Electricite de France - or at least that is what EdF hopes, for EdF is a foreign bidder with a difference. It is owned by the French state. Under the previous Government, any such takeover would have fallen foul of the "Lilley doctrine" - named after Peter Lilley, the former Trade and Industry Secretary. This dictated that no privately owned British company could be bought by a state owned foreign one, since it would amount to a back door nationalisation, and one by an overseas country to boot.

United fans want EU to block Sky takeover

KAREL VAN MIERT, the European Competition Commissioner, has incurred the wrath of British Sky Broadcasting after weighing into the debate over the television group's takeover of Manchester United.

Football: Clubs to hold Murdoch talks

THE PREMIER League is arranging a meeting of all of its clubs - with the exception of Manchester United - to look into the implications of Rupert Murdoch's takeover bid at Old Trafford.

Podium: Nobody wants to buy British TV

A short extract from the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture, given in Edinburgh

Oftel losing the 'David and Goliath' battle

UNDERFUNDING and poor training have left telephone regulator Oftel unable to protect customers in its "David and Goliath" battle with the big telecommunications firms, MPs warned today.

Outlook: At war over street furniture

FROM this side of the fence, it looks like the Napoleonic wars, Agincourt, Poitiers and Crecy all over again. The story so far. More Group, Britain's leading poster advertising company, last month agreed a pounds 441m takeover bid from Clear Channel of the US. Embarrassingly, this bid was then topped by JC Decaux, a family-owned French company which just happens to be one of More Group's more aggressive competitors, particularly in the fast growing market of advertising on street furniture.

Network: Bytes - Microsoft battles in and out of court

Following newspaper reports, based on leaks, that the US Justice Department - currently engaged in an antitrust suit with Microsoft - says it has enough evidence to press a new, larger case against the software company, Senator Patty Murray last week asked the Attorney General, Janet Reno, to confine the Justice Department's activities to the courtroom. "By allowing officials to leak selectively such information to the media, the department's credibility is undermined and assurances of fairness and confidentiality are questioned," she said.

Reed calls off pounds 18bn link-up with Wolters

Reed Elsevier, the Anglo-Dutch publishing group, yesterday shocked the stock market when it called off its proposed pounds 18bn merger with Wolters Kluwer, the Dutch group after the deal ran into opposition from European competition authorities.
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