AUDITORS SEEK TO EASE FEARS
The four biggest auditors have denied that their dominance of the market for large companies had created a systemic risk akin to that posed by the leading banks. Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC have told the European Commission that they are willing to help draw up contingency plans addressing the possible scenario of a collapse of parts of their business.
HALF OF VAT PENALTIES OVERTURNED
More than half of value added tax penalties are being overturned on appeal, according to statistics that draw attention to a new internal review procedure that makes it easier to query Revenue & Customs (HMRC) decisions. The figures may fuel concern that HMRC is issuing penalties too readily, although they will also boost confidence in the fairness of the review procedure introduced in 2009.
OFFICE SPACE DEMAND SOARS
Demand for office space in London from financial services groups last year outpaced levels in the boom period before the credit crunch, a sign of returning confidence among banks gearing up for expansion. Financial sector take-up of office space in central London totalled 6.4m square feet in 2010, compared with 5.3m in 2006 and 4.5m in 2007, according to Knight Frank.
PAMPLONA DEAL EDGES CLOSER
Pamplona Capital Management, the Russian-backed private equity firm, has inched towards control of KCA Deutag, after securing the backing of junior lenders for its proposed restructuring of the Aberdeen-based oil services group. The firm has offered the company and its lenders about $550m (£344m) of new funds, one of the biggest cheques written for a takeover of a European company through a debt restructuring, according to people familiar with the terms.
STORM OVER CENTRICA PROFITS
A surge in profits of as much as 25 per cent at the British Gas group Centrica looks set to prompt a Competition Commission investigation into Britain’s leading energy suppliers. Only two years after its last inquiry into the industry, Ofgem is in the middle of a new investigation into whether consumers facing high energy bills are being ripped off by electricity and gas providers.
TYCOON BUYS INTO ISRAELI MISSILE ALERT SYSTEM
The property entrepreneur Vincent Tchenguiz has taken a stake in an Israeli defence technology company as part of a much larger plan to create a homeland security business. Mr Tchenguiz’s Consensus Business Group has invested more than £500,000 in the high-technology company eVigilo.
The Daily Telegraph
HARRODS HITS £1BN IN SALES
Harrods has hit £1bn of annual sales for the first time after a blowout Christmas. The department store cracked the milestone figure for the year to the end of January after tourists flocked to the West End in the run up to Christmas. Michael Ward, Harrod’s managing director, said: “Reaching £1bn sales makes today one of the most significant in the store’s history.”
FUEL LUNACY COULD CAUSE STANDSTILL
The Government must address the plight of Britain’s poor motorists, writes Boris Johnson. He said: “If I were the government, I would think seriously about that fuel duty stabiliser, because when it costs more to fill your tank than to fly to Rome, something is seriously wrong... The electric revolution is happening, but it will not be overnight.”
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
VODAFONE-ESSAR SPAT INTENSIFIES
Vodafone Group said it continues to believe that material information has not been provided by Essar Group regarding the merger of its listed company with a privately held Essar holding unit, which in turn holds an indirect 11 per cent stake in the British telecommunication firm’s Indian unit.
LONE STAR RIDES TO AID OF JAPAN BANK
US distressed-debt specialist Lone Star Funds is in talks with other lenders to take control of Japan's Tokyo Star Bank for the second time. The Dallas-based fund and other lenders are in discussions with Japanese private-equity fund Advantage Partners regarding about 170 billion yen (£1.29bn) worth of loans that it took out to buy Tokyo Star, according to people familiar with the matter.