PRESS DIGEST – British business – July 19

The Times

INVESTORS JOIN REVOLUTION IN OWNERSHIP OF CITY LAW FIRMS

Law firm MJ Hudson is planning to sell a quarter of its
shares to outside investors once rules regarding the ownership
of law firms are relaxed in October 2011. Private equity firm
Coller Capital, the investment vehicle of Jeremy Coller, has
already provided funding to the law firm in the form of a loan
that will be converted to shares once the rules change to allow
ownership by non-lawyers. Private equity firm Ariadne Capital is
also financially supporting the new business. A number of other
London law firms are also said to be considering raising capital
by similar means.

CITY EXPECTS ECONOMY TO REGAIN SPRING IN ITS STEP

The government Office for National Statistics is to offer
its first estimate of UK economic growth for the second quarter
of 2010 on Friday. The banking group Citigroup is predicting
that the ONS will estimate growth of 0.8 percent in the second
quarter, which would be markedly higher than the first-quarter
figure of 0.3 percent. A jump of 0.5 percent would be the
highest rise in growth between quarters since the start of 2007,
but the consensus in the City of London is that growth of 0.6
percent is more likely.

BIOLIQUID COULD FILL VOID LEFT BY POWER STATION CLOSURES

Think-tank the Bow Group is to urge the Energy Secretary,
Chris Huhne, to commit to building power stations that use
biofuels in order to meet the government’s carbon emission
reduction target. Chairman of the Bow Group’s energy committee
Tony Lodge has said: “Now is the time for action”. Huhne has
recently been criticised for increasing the UK’s commitment to
reducing carbon emissions while decreasing the amount of
government funding for green projects and delaying a decision on
national energy policy.

The Independent

BT SETS ITS SIGHTS ON SMART METER MARKET

Telecommunications firm BT (BT.L: ) is preparing to bid for a
multi-billion pound government contract to provide smart meters
to 28 million homes in the UK. The meters monitor gas, water and
electricity usage in a bid to reduce energy consumption. BT is
to announce that it has joined a partnership with transmission
group Arqiva and technology consultant Detica to establish the
communications network that will be needed to operate the
scheme. The government is planning for a meter to be installed
in every home in the UK by 2020.

RETAILERS IN LONDON SURGE AHEAD OF REGIONAL RIVALS

Figures released by trade body the British Retail Consortium
and professional services firm KPMG have shown that retailers in
central London saw a 14.4 percent increase in sales in June,
their best performance since the autumn of 2006. Retailers in
the rest of the country saw sales growth of just 1.2 percent,
highlighting the challenge that the rest of the sector faces.
Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said: “These are
impressive results. Fewer people were out shopping in central
London, but they were spending more per visit.”

CAP AND TRADE PLAN FOR AIRLINES

Trade body the Confederation of British Industry will on
Monday call for United Nations agency the International Civil
Aviation Organisation to lay the groundwork for a global cap and
trade carbon emissions scheme for airlines at its general
assembly in September. The European Union has already
established its own Emissions Trading Scheme, which will become
mandatory for European airlines in 2012. The CBI has said that
cap and trade schemes would need to be compulsory and
standardised worldwide if they are to be truly effective.

The Guardian

RACISM CLAIM OPENS NEW FRONT IN BA DISPUTE

A group named Crew Defence, representing 75 British Airways
(BAY.L: ) employees, have accused the airline’s management of
discrimination against employees based in Scotland, Ireland, and
mainland Europe. It is alleged that the removal of discounted
travel will have a disproportionate effect on staff that use the
scheme to commute to and from Heathrow airport. Crew Defence
claims that its campaign has the support of around 1,500 cabin
crew.

SPENDING CUTS WIPE ONE BILLION POUNDS FROM HOUSEBUILDERS’
MARKET VALUE.

Concerns that cuts in public spending could adversely affect
the UK’s housebuilding companies have resulted in the value of
shares in the sector declining by nearly a billion pounds. On
average, the seven leading British firms have lost 15 percent of
their market capitalisation. Taylor Wimpey (TW.L: ) has been the
business affected worst by the economic downturn and the
austerity budget, losing 30 percent of its value.

Daily Telegraph

UNILEVER LICKS ITS RIVAL TO SELL ICE CREAMS ON THE STREETS
OF RIO

Unilever (ULVR.L: ) has finally gained a licence to sell its
Kibon brand of ice cream in the public areas of Rio de Janeiro,
after 30 years of struggling to wrest the exclusive licence from
its Swiss rival Nestle. The British company already possessed a
large share of the city’s ice cream market through sales in
supermarkets and bars, but until now had not been able to sell
its wares in profitable areas such as the Ipanema beach.

BANKS ARE MISLEADING SMALL FIRMS, SAYS CABLE

Claims by high street banks such as Royal Bank of Scotland
(RBS.L: ) and Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L: ) that they are
approving 80 percent of loan applications to small businesses
have been described as “misleading” by the Business Secretary
Vince Cable. The minister stated that he believed banks were
making it more difficult for businesses to obtain loans, citing
evidence from bodies such as the Institute of Directors to show
that not enough is being lent. The Treasury and the Business
Department will this week launch a consultation discussing the
merits of imposing lending targets on banks.

ARGOS SEEKS 13 BILLION POUNDS FROM SOFA SUPPLIER

Insurers acting on behalf of Argos are pursuing a legal case
worth 13 million pounds against the Northampton-based furniture
company Leather Trade House, which supplied it and other
retailers with toxic sofas that caused burns and other injuries
to customers. The sofas were treated with the chemical dimethyl
fumarate to prevent them going mouldy whilst being shipped from
China to Britain. The 4,475 claimants who purchased the affected
sofas could receive up to 20 million pounds of compensation
between them.

PRESS DIGEST – British business – July 19