News in Brief: Ofcom, RBS, BT appoints new FD, M&A activity

News in Brief

Ofcom: BT must improve its business services

Communications watchdog Ofcom has told BT to install high-speed cables to businesses at a faster rate and reduce their prices.

It follows its review into "leased lines" which are used by big businesses and mobile and broadband operators to transfer data on their networks.

Most of these lines are owned and maintained on behalf of competing providers by BT, reported the BBC.

BT accepted more needed to be done to meet rising expectations.

Ofcom said BT's performance had not been "acceptable", but the company said some of the regulator's recommendations did little to help it "underpin service improvement".

RBS has paid £1.2bn to Treasury

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) claimed it has achieved a milestone after paying £1.2bn to the Treasury to buy out a crucial part of its £45bn bailout.

The Edinburgh-based bank – still 73% owned by the taxpayer – is making the payment to end an agreement with the government which prevented it paying dividends to any shareholders before the Treasury.

This so-called dividend access share (DAS) was put in place in 2009 – although the loss-making bank is not yet ready to start making payouts to shareholders, reported the Guardian.

RBS is not making a profit – it reported its eighth consecutive year of losses for 2015 in February 2016 – and may find that the £1.2bn payment to the Treasury will make it hard to make a profit in the first quarter of 2016.

Ross McEwan, chief executive of RBS, said: “This is another important milestone in our plan to resume capital distributions to our shareholders and represents one less hurdle in our path to build the number one bank for customer service, trust and advocacy.”

BT appoints new finance director

BT is ringing up gains after unveiling its new finance director, former BG executive Simon Lowth, who left in February 2016 following the gases group’s £35bn takeover by Shell and will join BT in July 2016.

Lowth will replace BT’s current finance director Tony Chanmugam, who will focus on integrating the acquisition of mobile group EE into the rest of BT, reported the Guardian.

The company has made much play of Lowth’s experience in “driving major cost transformation and performance improvement programmes.” As well as BG, he has been a director at ScottishPower and AstraZeneca, and has been a non-executive at Standard Chartered since 2010.

The news has helped lift BT’s shares 4p higher to 450.5p.

UK M&A activity experiencing a "major pause"

The looming EU referendum, market volatility and the weakening of the pound have contributed to a fall in UK M&A activity, research has found.

Foreign spending on British acquisitions has dipped by nearly a third so far this year, according to Deloitte.

Between 1 January 2016 and 8 March 2016 foreign buyers spent £17.1bn ($24.4bN) on acquiring British companies. This was down from £24.4nbn ($34.9bn) in the same period last year, reported City A.M.

And in the same period, domestic M&A deal values have fallen from £8.8bn ($12.6bn) to £4.2bn ($6.1bn).

Outbound M&A by UK companies, meanwhile, has fallen from £4.2bn ($6.1bn) to £1.1bn ($1.7bn).

In addition to the total value of M&A falling, Deloitte also said there has been a decline in the number of deals. Inbound deals fell from 174 to 141, domestic deals from 304 to 183 and outbound deals from 168 to 119.