News round up: HMV, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, Cyprus, Fuel poverty crisis, BP, Triple-dip recession, Dell, Aon, Shopper numbers.
HMV Group plc (LON:HMV) could be looking at rescue from Hilco, The Telegraph writes. It has been said that Universal Misic, Warner Music and Sony are all in favour of Hilco stepping in to buy out HMV.
If the firm specialising in buying retailers out of administration and turning them around were to buy UK-based HMV just like it did HMV Canada in 2011, the music companies may be willing to cut the price of CDs and DVDs, as well as give HMV generous credit terms.
Barclays was hit by further damaging revelations about the culture that was allowed to flourish in certain parts of the bank yesterday after it emerged that a senior executive had suppressed a damaging report into Barclays Wealth in America. The report, compiled by consultancy firm Genesis Ventures, was said by a Sunday newspaper to have sharply criticised a "revenue at all costs" strategy and a "culture that is high-risk and actively hostile to compliance".
Management was said to have "ruled with an iron fist", acting to remove "any intervention from those who speak up in opposition". Genesis Ventures' report was initially only supplied to Andrew Tinney, chief operating officer of the private investment division, and he suppressed it. His departure was announced to staff in an email a week ago, and it is understood he did not receive a pay-off. [The Independent]
Royal Bank of Scotland
It sounds like such fun. A Royal Bank of Scotland trader quips "hahaha" in a series of jovial electronic exchanges as he goes about his work. But it will soon become clear that however much fun the trader felt he was having, the repercussions for the bailed-out bank will be anything but when it is hit with a staggering £500m or so in fines for manipulating Libor.
Ever since Barclays was fined £290m in June for rigging the benchmark interest rate, Stephen Hester, the RBS chief executive, has been softening the ground for the bailed-out bank to suffer a similar – or worse – humiliation by regulators on both sides on Atlantic. [The Guardian]
The long-delayed bailout of Cyprus is set to be pushed back at least two more months amid mounting disagreement over how to bring down the cost to a manageable level for the debt-laden government. Although fears Cyprus would run out of cash have dissipated after it tapped previously off-limits cash reserves and Russia showed willingness to delay repayment on a €2.5bn loan, officials said the delay until late March would push Nicosia to the edge of its ability to fund government and banking operations.
Publicly, Cypriot leaders said the delay was due to a protracted review of its teetering banking sector's capital needs, which California-based investment group Pimco began in September. [Financial Times]
Fuel poverty crisis
More than 100 energy companies, charities and businesses have joined forces to warn David Cameron that Britain is heading for a fuel poverty crisis owing to a failure of government policy. In a letter to the Prime Minister, seen by The Times, they argue that ministers are not doing enough to tackle soaring gas and electricity bills that leave a growing number of people unable to heat their homes.
An unprecedented alliance, including Npower, the Co-operative, Age UK and Barnardo's, urges Mr Cameron to use money raised from the "carbon tax" to be levied from April to tackle the "national disgrace" of cold homes. A programme to fit houses with proper insulation would, they say, protect the vulnerable, help the environment and boost the economy. [The Times]
BP’s new alliance with Rosneft, the Kremlin-controlled oil group, has threatened to undermine its position in Azerbaijan, The Times has learnt. Bob Dudley, BP's chief executive, flew to Baku, the Azeri capital, just before Christmas to reassure the Government that the company remained committed to the oil and gas-rich Central Asian state. His visit came after the announcement in October of BP's $28 billion sale of its stake in the TNK-BP joint venture to Rosneft.
BP holds a 20 per cent stake in Rosneft, will take two seats on its board and is expected to appoint at least one Russian to its board. However, executives at Socar, Azerbaijan's state-run oil and gas group, raised strong concerns that the Rosneft deal would allow the Kremlin to exert indirect influence through the British company. [The Times]
The Government must do more than "muddle through" if it is to pull Britain out of its economic hole, economists warned today, ahead of figures expected to show the UK is veering towards a triple-dip recession.
The Coalition lacks imagination on how to stimulate the economy, leaving countries like the US to stage a faster and sharper rebound from the worst financial crisis since the 1930s according to the Ernst & Young ITEM Club. "The UK has crawled out of recession but the government's mid-term report card should read 'could do better'," said Peter Spencer, chief economic advisor to ITEM.[The Telegraph]
Dell could be taken private in a $22bn (£14bn) deal this week as the mounting crisis in the PC market forces one of the world's largest technology companies to switch from making computers to providing information technology services.
The buyout, led by private equity group Silver Lake Management and Dell's founder and chief executive, Michael Dell, would be the largest leveraged takeover since the banking crisis struck in 2007. [The Guardian]
The London-based insurance broker Aon is helping 250 of its highly paid staff avoid 50% income tax by deferring bonus payments until the new tax year. Other top brokers, including Willis, are also considering whether to allow their staff to postpone payments until after 6 April when the top rate of income tax falls to 45%.
Just days after the investment bank Goldman Sachs was forced to back down on its own plans to defer bonuses, it has emerged that Aon has put mechanisms in place to delay payments for its employees so they pay income tax at 45%. The move allows an executive expecting a £200,000 payout to save £10,000 in tax. [The Guardian]
Scotland has seen the second largest increase in shopper numbers in the UK, according to figures today which point to signs of life on the nation's high streets. The number of people visiting stores was 6.2 per cent higher last month than in December 2011, according to the Scottish Retail Consortium/Springboard "footfall monitor".
Scotland was just one of four areas of the UK to record an increase in the volume of shoppers, and was second only to the West Midlands, where there was a 10 per cent rise. [The Scotsman]