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Sunday newspaper round-up: Unilever, BoE, SSE, Pound

By Alexander Bueso

Date: Sunday 19 Mar 2017

Sunday newspaper round-up: Unilever, BoE, SSE, Pound

(ShareCast News) - Unilever is preparing a £6bn sale of brands including Flora and Stork as part of its response to the ill-fated takeover bid from Kraft Heinz. Chief executive Paul Polman will unveil a slew of cost-cutting and restructuring measures next month following shareholder pressure prompted by the unwanted $143bn (£115.3bn) bid from the American food giant. The bid fell apart amid trenchant opposition from Unilever's board. A strategic review, which the board had already started, is now being accelerated. Polman is expected to earmark the sale of the margarine and spreads business as one of a number of possible responses. - The Sunday Times
Regulators at the Bank of England are growing increasingly concerned about the future of Co-operative Bank as the beleaguered lender struggles to find a rescue buyer. It is understood the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) has begun drawing up contingency plans for the troubled bank, which put itself up for sale last month amid mounting concerns about its capital position. - The Sunday Telegraph

Customers of SSE are set to see their electricity bills rise by 14.9% from 28 April, as the company became the latest of the "big six" energy suppliers to increase prices. The firm, formerly known as Scottish & Southern Energy, said its typical dual fuel (gas and electricity) customer will see their annual bill rise by 6.9%, or £73 a year. It blamed its first electricity price rise in three-and-a-half years on government policies that require all energy customers to subsidise renewable energy, and the cost of a smart meter installation programme. Gas prices for the company's 2.8m customers remain unchanged. - The Guardian

Europe's busiest heliport, which ferries offshore oil workers between north-east Scotland and North Sea rigs, is normally one of the most active parts of Aberdeen. But the oil industry's two-year slump and thousands of job losses mean some residents say the food banks are the now the busiest place in the "energy capital of Europe". The oil price crash - from more than $100 a barrel when the Scottish independence referendum was held in 2014 to as low as $27 last year - has been tough on the Granite City. - The Guardian

Financial officials from the world's biggest economies have dropped from a joint statement any mention of financing action on climate change, reportedly following pressure from the US and Saudi Arabia. Finance ministers from the G20, which comprises more than 80% of the global economy, debated the wording of their final joint statement on trade at their summit in the German resort of Baden-Baden. - The Independent on Sunday

Just days after being forced into an embarrassing u-turn over national insurance hikes, it is feared Philip Hammond will borrow tens of billions of pounds more than predicted over the coming years, leaving a fresh hole in the nation's finances. Forecasters across the City of London believe the Office for Budget Responsibility's deficit forecasts are too optimistic and risk leaving a £7.1bn hole in the Chancellor's plans next year. If the weaker fiscal performance continues, the national debt could grow by an additional tens of billions of pounds over the coming years. - The Sunday Telegraph

The pound is set to plummet as Brexit negotiations begin, amid fears of a lengthy stand-off between the UK and the European Union, City bankers are warning this weekend. The pressure on the pound will be compounded later this month as sterling is set to drop down the rankings of 'reserve currencies' used by central banks, with the Japanese yen set to emerge as a more popular currency. - The Mail On Sunday

The pound has rallied against the euro and US dollar this week, and the currency is expected to extend gains next week. Thursday's surprising Bank of England (BoE) interest rate decision saw GBP/EUR shooting above €1.150 and GBP/USD touching highs of $1.239. With policymaker Kirstin Forbes voting for an immediate increase in interest rates, and other policymakers indicating they might also start pushing for borrowing costs to rise in the near future, the pound was able to recover from last week's lows and hold gains into the weekend. - Express on Sunday

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