<strong>FINANCIAL TIMES<br /><br />AQUASCUTUM IN BUY-OUT TALKS</strong><br />Aquascutum, the classic British clothing brand, could be sold to the Hong Kong clothier that distributes the label in China and south-east Asia after an offer from the brand&rsquo;s management to buy the business was rejected at the eleventh hour last week. Japan&rsquo;s Renown, which bought the British label in 1990, is in talks to sell the 58-year-old British brand to Hong Kong&rsquo;s YGM Trading.<br /><br /><strong>TRICHET DEFENDS ECB INDEPENDENCE</strong><br />The head of the European Central Bank stressed its &ldquo;fierce independence&rdquo; in a thinly veiled rebuke to Angela Merkel after the German chancellor accused it of bowing to international pressure in response to the crisis. Jean-Claude Trichet said he and Merkel had spoken by telephone on Wednesday and she had respected the ECB&rsquo;s freedom to act.<br /><br /><strong>FED DISMISSES TARP OBLIGATIONS</strong><br />US regulators insisted that JPMorgan Chase and American Express raise equity this week before repaying bail-out funds, in spite of strong objections from executives who claimed the banks did not need the money, people close to the situation said. In fraught talks last week, Wall Street chiefs disagreed with the authorities over whether the Federal Reserve should require an equity offering as a condition for inclusion in the first wave of repayers of the troubled asset relief programme.<br /><br /><strong>SBERBANK TO SELL OPEL STAKE<br /></strong>Russia&rsquo;s Sberbank plans to sell its stake in Opel to another Russian investor, its chairman said on Thursday. German Gref said that his bank and Canadian parts supplier Magna International would commit &euro;500m (&pound;440m) to General Motors&rsquo; spun-off European business but that Sberbank would later sell its stake.<br /><br /><strong>THE TIMES<br /><br />SACKED M&amp;S BOARD MEMBER EARNED OVER &pound;1M</strong><br />Steven Esom, the former head of food at Marks &amp; Spencer, was paid more than &pound;1m for just 112 days&rsquo; work on its board, the annual report revealed. Esom, who was dismissed by M&amp;S in July last year after being appointed to the retailer&rsquo;s board in March, received a payoff of &pound;568,000 in line with the terms of his contract.<br /><br /><strong>IRELAND'S NEWCOURT FALLS INTO RECEIVERSHIP</strong><br />More than 3,000 jobs were in jeopardy tonight as Newcourt Group, one of Ireland&rsquo;s biggest security and recruitment companies, was forced to call in receivers at Deloitte after failing to renegotiate its bank debt. Newcourt operates a string of subsidiaries, including Federal Security Group, which alone employs 3,000 staff.<strong><br /></strong><br /><strong>The Daily Telegraph</strong><br /><br /><strong>NAMES FACE BANKRUPTCY TODAY</strong><br />More than 30 Lloyd&rsquo;s of London &ldquo;Names&rdquo; will reach the end of a long legal battle when they are declared bankrupt in the High Court on Friday. The group of 35 individuals face financial ruin just under a year after the Court ruled against their claim that they had been misled over insurance deals they bought into prior to the market's near collapse in 1992.<br /><br /><strong>EUROPEAN BANKS IN THE SPOTLIGHT</strong><br />Sweden is preparing to part-nationalise banks exposed to the economic collapse in Baltic states, raising fears that a string of Western European countries could face similar fallout from rising defaults in the former Communist bloc. Finance Minister Anders Borg said the Swedish state will buy stakes in distressed banks if they fall deeper into trouble but will impose draconian terms.<br /><br /><strong>WALL STREET JOURNAL</strong><br /><br /><strong>INTEL GETS DEEP INTO SOFTWARE</strong><br />Intel agreed to buy Wind River Systems for about $884m (&pound;549m) yesterday, in a surprise move that gives the chip maker a significant software business and could help take its technology to new markets. The transaction also makes Intel a direct competitor with Microsoft, though mainly outside of computer markets that are the focus of the technology giants&rsquo; long partnership.<br /><br /><strong>OBAMA CHIDES ISRAEL, ARABS IN HIS OVERTURE TO MUSLIMS</strong><br />President Barack Obama waded into the heart of the Middle East conflict Thursday by forcefully reiterating his support for a Palestinian state and admonishing the Arab world to pursue peace with Israel as he made his long-awaited appeal to mend the rift between America and the Muslim world.