What the other papers say this morning - 27 November 2013

FINANCIAL TIMES

RBS faces possible criminal probe
The Serious Fraud Office is considering a criminal investigation into allegations Royal Bank of Scotland defrauded companies by forcing them out of business, amid growing pressure on the bank over its treatment of SMEs. The SFO has conducted interviews with former executives of UK firms affected by RBS’s Global Restructuring Group, which manages the bank’s riskier loans, according to five people familiar with the matter. The agency is assessing whether there was criminal activity or whether the bank was engaging in lawful, if bad, business practice, the people said. The probe is in its early stages and has not yet progressed to a full investigation.

Iran opens contacts with oil groups
Iran’s oil ministry has opened contacts with western firms as the government tries to capitalise on progress in nuclear talks and encourage companies to prepare for a lifting of sanctions. Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, the oil minister, told the Financial Times he had met with European companies and “indirectly” with US firms with a view to inviting them to Iran.

Private equity holds $789bn
Private equity groups are holding more cash for acquisitions than they had at the height of the leveraged buyout boom – data compiled by Preqin show the value of unspent commitments to private equity funds has surged to $789bn (£486.71bn) – an increase of 12 per cent since 2012, after four years of decline.

THE TIMES

Amec lining up £5bn deal
Amec is stalking US rival Foster Wheeler with a view to potentially pulling off a deal to create a £5 bn energy group. After walking away from a £700 m hostile takeover approach for Kentz, Amec is understood to be taking a serious look at a bigger acquisition of a competitor with a strong presence in the Scottish oil and gas industry.

Hilton Worldwide’s capital gains
Hilton Worldwide is poised to boost its presence in London today when it announces a deal to reflag three Jurys Inn hotels. Jurys will spend £20m upgrading the two central London hotels to the more upmarket DoubleTree and adding a further 143 rooms to the Islington property.

The Daily Telegraph

Global free trade talks collapse
Negotiators came tantalisingly close but failed to clinch a global free trade deal after more than a decade of talks that could have given the world economy a $1 trillion (£616.8bn) boost, the head of the World Trade Organization said yesterday.

BT accused of accounting tricks
BT stands accused by rival TalkTalk of using “accounting tricks” to shift nearly £120m of costs onto customer broadband bills this year. BSkyB has also raised concerns over the move and called on watchdogs to act to protect consumers. BT was called on by Ofcom to explain changes to how costs were allocated in accounts this year. A BT spokeswoman said it has been transparent.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Cox explores bid for Time Warner
Cox Communications is contemplating jumping into the bidding for Time Warner Cable, according to people familiar with the situation, either on its own or collaborating with others. Cox is the third biggest cable operator, after Time Warner Cable, with about 4.5m television subscribers.

Lufthansa to end code share deal
Relations between airline partners Deutsche Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines took a turn for the worse yesterday as the German flag carrier said it plans to end a commercial agreement in March next year due to increasing competition between the two carriers.