Thursday Newspaper round up.

Microsoft is in talks to buy a leading social network for companies for more than $1bn, according to reports. A deal for Yammer could be sealed as soon as today, Bloomberg reported, citing unidentified sources. Microsoft already owns a range of business products, and adding Yammer would step up the rivalry with, which landed social-marketing tools when it paid $745m purchase for Buddy Media earlier this month. Oracle also recently bought two companies that analyze data on social-media sites – Vitrue and Collective Intellect. Frank Shaw, a spokesman for Microsoft, declined to comment to Bloomberg on a potential deal. Deanna McPherson, a spokeswoman for Yammer, also declined to comment, The Telegraph comments.

The oil price could almost halve later this year if the crisis in the Eurozone escalates, Credit Suisse believes. “Brent oil prices would again hit $50 (£32) a barrel” in a worst-case scenario, according to analysts Jan Stuart and Stefan Revielle. “Oil demand would deflate sharply following acute crises of confidence.” The analysts said that all potential negative scenarios involved Europe “to some degree” with the starting point of collapse coming over the summer. However, Brent crude rose $1.06 to $98.20 yesterday after the US Energy Department said the country’s stockpiles had seen a surprise fall of 191,000 barrels to 384.4m barrels last week, according to The Telegraph.

France’s newly elected Government has abruptly suspended licences to drill for oil off the coast of French Guiana in a potentially shattering blow for Shell and Tullow Oil. An exploration well less than 160km (100 miles) off the South American colony struck a hydrocarbon deposit at a first attempt in September, sparking excitement about prospects for as much as $80bn (£51bn) in oil. The find raised the possibility that the tiny tropical territory of fewer than 200,000 people could become a big player in global energy. Shell, Tullow Oil, Total, Wessex Exploration and Northern Petroleum jointly own the drilling project and had expected authorisation to continue, The Times reports.

George Osborne is set to unveil an historic overhaul of Britain’s largest banks that will force them to separate their retail and investment banking operations and prevent problems at City banks “spilling onto high streets”. In a Mansion House speech tonight, the Chancellor will hail the government’s publication of a White Paper on banking as a move towards “fundamentally reforming” the industry. Mr Osborne will say the government has resisted industry lobbying efforts and will push ahead with measures to require banks to ring-fence their retail operations from their investment banking arms, The Telegraph writes.

The Chancellor is expected to address today the growing criticism that the authorities are doing too little to ease strains in the banking system that are choking off credit to companies and households. George Osborne is set to use his Mansion House speech to reassure the City that action can be taken to ease pressures on British banks as the eurozone crisis deepens. His words to the City gathering come after Paul Tucker, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, signalled this week that a re-think was under way in Threadneedle Street over its response to the menace of a new credit crunch, acknowledging that his institution needed to do more to help the banking sector. Sir Mervyn King, the Bank’s Governor, will also set out his latest thinking on the impact of the euro crisis at the Mansion House dinner, according to The Times.

Africa is to get its own version of easyJet this summer after a deal was signed to launch a low-cost, pan-continental airline with fares starting from $20. The airline, Fastjet, will be listed on the London Stock Exchange. Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of easyJet, has been talking for months to Lonrho, the pan-African trading company. Yesterday the groups confirmed that they are to meld Lonrho’s fledgeling squadron of propeller-driven, 50-seat passenger aircraft into a business plan to fly a fleet of 150-seat Airbus or Boeing planes that match European aviation standards. The credibility of the venture has been boosted with the hiring of Ed Winter, a former chief operating officer of easyJet, to be chief executive, The Times says.

Few large Eurozone banks would be left standing and the banking sector could face a €370bn (£298bn) loss if the euro crisis results in the single currency bloc breaking apart, according to one of the first in-depth analyses of what might happen if the Eurozone disintegrates. The analysis by Credit Suisse estimates that up to 58% of the value of Europe’s banks could be wiped out by the departure of the “peripheral” countries – Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain – from the Eurozone. Even if the single currency remains intact some €1.3tn of credit could be sucked out of the system as banks retrench to their home markets, unwinding years of financial integration, the Credit Suisse analysis warns. his represents as much as 10% of the credit in the financial system, the Guardian reports.

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