WHAT THE OTHER PAPERS SAY THIS MORNING

FINANCIAL TIMES

CHINA TRAVEL GROUP PULLS OUT OF AIM
Et-China.com International Holdings, the Chinese travel specialist, will today become the first company to quit Aim this year. Shares in the company, which raised £4.4m at 127p a share when it joined Aim in August 2007, were suspended at 103 1/2p in July because of its failure to send annual accounts to shareholders.

PETROPAVLOVSK IN BOARD SHAKE-UP
Petropavlovsk, the London-listed gold mining group, has appointed three new board members – including its first female director – in a management shake-up following a strategic review. The appointments come after investor criticism last year that there was insufficient depth of operational expertise at board level, after the group missed production forecasts. Andrey Maruta, who is the group’s financial controller, will be appointed finance director, Russia. Alya Samokhvalova, the group’s head of external communications, will be appointed to the new role of strategic director and chair a newly-created strategic committee. Martin Smith, group head of technical services for Petropavlovsk, will be made technical director.

AXA TARGETS €1.5BN FOR PROPERTY DEBT FUND
Axa Real Estate will commit up to €1.5bn (£1.29bn) from insurance activities into the provision of debt to commercial real estate, aiming to exploit the retreat of banks and other debt providers from property lending since the crash.

AMAZON STEPS UP EU GROWTH WITH FOCUS ON DISTRIBUTION
Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, is stepping up its expansion in the European Union with an enlarged distribution network.

THE TIMES

ROYAL MAIL’S HIGH PRICE FOR TAXPAYER CASH
Royal Mail may have to sell some of its most profitable businesses to get a
green light from Brussels for a taxpayer bailout of its £8.4bn pension deficit. The Department for Business is preparing to lodge an application with the European Commission to determine whether its plan to take on the pension fund’s liabilities constitutes state aid that could give the group an unfair edge over its rivals.

ENERGY SHAKE-UP WILL LIFT ELECTRICITY BILLS TO £1,000 IN 20 YEARS
Government officials have admitted that the shake-up of the electricity market to generate more green and nuclear energy will raise power prices by more than 50 per cent — much higher than indicated previously. The Energy Secretary had said that bills would go up by only £160 a year.

The Daily Telegraph

VAT CHANGE WILL BE USED TO HIDE 8PC PRICE RISE
The cost of many goods and services will rise by more than three times the rate of the VAT increase as businesses use the tax to mask a more dramatic price review, leading industry experts warn today. The rate of Value Added Tax rose by 2.5 percentage points at midnight, from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent – an attempt by the Coalition to reduce the deficit. But analysts believe many gyms, mobile phone companies, restaurants and shops will raise their prices by between five per cent and eight per cent, or possibly more.

LLOYDS “BAD BANK” CHIEF ANDY CUMMING FEARS “RIPPLE” EFFECT IN UK ECONOMY FROM SPENDING SLUMP
Andy Cumming, the man in charge of Lloyds Banking Group’s “bad bank”, has warned the UK’s economic recovery remains far from certain.

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
EUROPE

EU INVESTIGATES HUNGARY'S SPECIAL TAXES
The European Union is investigating the legality of special “crisis” taxes imposed by Hungary on a handful of industries amid an escalating feud between the country’s new government and its increasingly outspoken critics elsewhere in Europe. Tensions have mounted as Hungary takes over the rotating presidency of the EU and could complicate the regional bloc’s efforts to make progress on a series of important measures aimed at bolstering the continent’s economic recovery.

PIRAEUS RAISES FUNDS AT STEEP DISCOUNT
Greece’s Piraeus Bank, the country’s fourth-largest lender, said yesterday its long-awaited €800m rights issue will be priced at €1 a share, representing a sharper than expected discount.