Wednesday Newspaper round up

It’s Budget day today. Let’s see what the ChancerLiar can pull out of his hat for the great unwashed. Maybe we will all get a 10% reduction in tax such as that about to be given to the top earners. I wouldn’t hold my breathe on that. One may end up gasping for air.


The Times

The new owner of Comet has quietly hoisted a “for sale” sign above a third of its stores. The move comes as Comet’s landlords prepare for a round of crunch talks with OpCapita, the turnaround group that bought the chain for £2 this year, which could lead to the electricals chain quitting locations. A list of 61 stores is being circulated by property agents, including 34 poorly performing stores it wants to exit if it can do so without incurring a charge and a further 37 that it will hand over if it can secure a premium worth more than the store contributes in annual profit.

Royal Bank of Scotland’s insurance arm is poised to appoint Mike Biggs (No relation to Ronnie) as its chairman with a brief to lead a £5bn flotation of the Churchill and Direct Line brands this year. Mr Biggs, a former HSBC banker and Aviva finance director, is chairman of Resolution Limited, Clive Cowdery’s FTSE 100 investment vehicle. It is understood that Mr Biggs intends to stay on at Resolution until 2014, when its UK Life Project, to consolidate life assurance companies, draws to an end. It will mean that Mr Biggs is likely to chair two FTSE 100 companies at the same time, a move that is frowned on by some investors, but which does not breach current boardroom best-practice codes.

Improvements in the economic outlook expected to give Osborne headroom for £5bn of future giveaways. That is what some expect the Office for Budget Responsibility´s latest economic projections, due out today, to show. The Government has the headroom to ease up on austerity measures for the first time since coming to power, official economic forecasts released alongside tomorrow’s Budget are expected to show. Stronger growth, better tax receipts, and lower public spending than expected will make it easier for the Treasury to meet its self-imposed targets of eliminating the structural budget deficit within five years and have debt as a proportion of GDP falling by 2015.

The Netherlands, one of the Eurozone’s “hardliners” on financial discipline, has the “same problems as Italy and Spain” and is on track to break Europe’s three-week old fiscal pact, its own officials have warned. The Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis said the country’s budget deficit could increase to 4.6% of GDP during this year and next year – a level that far exceeds the 3% ratio that 25 European Union countries pledged to meet by next year. In a report that will embarrass the Dutch government but delight Club Med countries, the CPB said: “The Netherlands is confronted with the same problems as Italy and Spain.” The Dutch government will have to introduce a raft of austerity cuts in order to meet the targets, the state think-thank said.

The Daily Telegraph

Energy network operator National Grid and oil services company Petrofac have joined with US developer Summit Power to enter a £1bn government competition to build a carbon capture and storage project. The consortium said it proposed to build a low-carbon coal power station at the Port of Grangemouth, west of Edinburgh on the Firth of Forth in Scotland. A previous high-profile government competition to award the £1bn funding allocated to the development of a commercial scale CCS project ended in failure last year, but a new competition is due to be launched in coming weeks. The proposed bid announced today would be known as the Caledonia Clean Energy Project. The power plant would run on coal feedstock and would have more than 90% carbon capture, Summit Power said.

The Daily Mail

The recovery in Britain will be ‘slow and painful’ with ‘enormous personal and social costs’, a leading Bank of England official warned last night. Spencer Dale, the central bank’s chief economist, said the UK faces a ‘challenging journey’ after years of debt-fuelled spending. Speaking as the Chancellor put the finishing touches to today’s Budget, he said: ‘For many years, as a nation we have been living beyond our means.

House prices in emerging market countries saw the biggest increases over the last ten years, while Britain’s housing market fared better than many other developed countries, research has revealed. According to the Lloyds TSB International Global Housing Market Review, emerging economies accounted for four of the six top performing housing markets since 2001 – including the three countries that claim the top three spots. India topped the table with house prices in the country increasing by a staggering 284% once inflation is taken into account, since 2001. This is equivalent to an average annual rise of 14%.  

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