Britain is close to agreeing a new £10bn commitment to the International Monetary Fund as the Bretton Woods institution seeks to double its war-chest at its spring meeting this week. George Osborne is expected to support the IMF’s calls for greater resources in back-room negotiations, but will only pledge the extra funds if agreement can be struck with all the major non-Eurozone nations, bar the US. Tim Geithner, US Treasury Secretary, has made it clear the US will not make any further contributions until the Eurozone has bolstered its own bail-out fund sufficiently, according to The Telegraph.
The diamond industry could acquire another sparkler if private equity house KKR pulls off a plan to merge the gem operations of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. America’s KKR is said to be considering a scheme to buy the divisions of the two miners and fuse them, creating the world’s third-largest diamond miner. A new company would rival the two industry leaders, De Beers and Alrosa. Both Rio and BHP have announced they are reviewing their diamond businesses with a view to a sale. They are keen to focus on key commodities like iron ore and copper, while selling out of diamonds at a time of tight supply and strong demand for gems, particularly from Asia, The Telegraph reports.
Steel giant Tata is to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in the Welsh steel industry over the next five years, it was revealed today. Returning from a trade mission to India, the First Minister of Wales said that Tata planned to invest £800m in the country. Carwyn Jones met the vice- chairman of Tata Steel, Balasubramanian Muthuraman, as part of the Welsh government’s three-day mission. They discussed Tata’s investment strategy for Wales and the Welsh government’s continuing partnership with the company, The Telegraph says.
British businesses are preparing to boost their output in the coming months, giving the economy a spring fillip, but tough conditions for exporters continue to hamper the recovery in manufacturing. The output index from accountancy firm BDO, out today, is the latest business survey to find evidence of green shoots amid Britain’s private sector. The survey, designed to indicate business conditions three months ahead, reached a nine-month high in March, but the firm warned that the road to recovery remains a long one. Neil Craig, managing partner for BDO in Glasgow, said: “It’s encouraging to see positive signs for UK growth in the short term, but it’s two steps forward followed by one step back at the moment, as the overall recovery is likely to be a slow one,” The Scotsman writes.
Escalating speculation that the Co-op might pull the plug on talks to take over 600-plus Lloyds Banking Group branches following a crunch meeting of its banking board this week has been dismissed as “off beam” and premature. Weekend reports said that a meeting of the board later this week was set to decide whether to proceed with the exclusive talks with Lloyds or definitively walk away from the so-called Project Verde assets. It comes against the backdrop of the exclusivity agreement between the Co-op and Lloyds being extended at the end of March, partly due to regulatory concerns on whether the mutual could handle the doubling of its banking business, both in terms of boardroom financial expertise and the group’s capital cushions, The Scotsman reports.
The drought has officially spread across swaths of western and central England and could affect millions until Christmas and beyond. More than half the country is now in a state of drought, according to the Environment Agency (EA), with 17 more counties added today, including most of the South West and the Midlands. Although the agency does not expect ordinary households in the newly designated areas to be seriously affected yet, it said that farmers and the environment could suffer. It gave warning that the long-term impact could be dire, with the “underlying drought situation” unlikely to abate even with a wet spring and summer. The problems could run into next year, The Times reports.
The bookmaker William Hill’s “strategically important” entry into the US sports betting market has stalled, with the company appearing to be struggling to convince Nevada regulators to consider its application for a gaming licence. The state’s Gaming Control Board meets every month to vote on new applications and it is understood that William Hill’s application has not been included on the May agenda, despite a vote being widely expected by now. The UK-based company is making the application after last year’s announcement that it will acquire three Nevada sports betting companies: American Wagering, Brandywine and Cal Neva Sportsbook, The Guardian says.