Wednesday Newspaper round up.

There were potentially suspicious share price movements before one in five takeover deals or big company announcements last year, the Financial Services Authority said yesterday in its annual report. The regulator detected abnormal price movements during the two days before 19.8% of formal company statements to the stock market, a figure that suggests insider dealing could remain rife in the City. The FSA is pursuing a concerted crackdown on market abuse — when directors, brokers or other share traders benefit from the receipt of inside information in advance. Although the level of potentially questionable trades is down on last year’s 21.2% and is the lowest since 2003, it still attracted criticism for being unacceptably high, according to The Times.

Ryanair has launched its third bid for rival airline Aer Lingus in six years, despite previous attempts having been blocked on competition grounds. The low-cost carrier made a shock announcement after the stock markets closed that it is offering 1.30 euros per Aer Lingus share in an all cash bid, which values the Irish flag carrier at about 694m euros (560m pounds). The offer represents a 38.3% premium to Aer Lingus’s closing price on Tuesday of 94 cents. Ryanair already owns a 29.82% stake in Aer Lingus which was built up during two previous unsuccessful attempts to buy the carrier in 2006 and 2008. That holding is currently the subject of an investigation by the UK’s Competition Commission, The Telegraph reports.

Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JP Morgan, defended the bank’s decision to locate in Britain large parts of the business that made a shock $2bn (£1.3bn) as US politicians attacked its exploitation of the “London loophole”. Giving evidence to US lawmakers yesterday[Tuesday], Mr Dimon said JP Morgan’s CIO [Chief Investment Office] operation “could have been in London or somewhere else” as he defended the bank’s British operations. “I don’t think this activity was in London because the regulatory regime was less,” said Mr Dimon. New York congressman Gregory Meeks, said he “kept hearing about a London loophole” and said many bankers he had spoken to had threatened to move business from the US to Britain because the regulatory regime was seen as more favourable, according to The Telegraph.

Greece’s pro-European parties were in the “final stretch” of forming a coalition on Tuesday night, as EU and IMF officials were poised to visit Athens for talks on resuming payment of the country’s bail-out funding. With world leaders urging action to calm nerves about Greece’s continuation in the euro, the conservative New Democracy, which narrowly won Sunday’s re-run election, is seeking an alliance with the socialists of Pasok and with Democratic Left. A Democratic Left’s source said the party had sought unspecified guarantees about public sector salaries and pensions, which have been cut in under the terms of Greece’s second bail-out of €130bn, The Telegraph says.

It is one of the most perplexing features of Britain’s recent economic performance: why is productivity so weak? Bank of England research to be published today sheds fresh light on the topic — and the conclusions are less than encouraging. Since the banking crash, the UK has underperformed not only its big trading partners but also when compared with 13 previous historical episodes, according to an article in the Quarterly Bulletin. Only Norway has suffered weaker productivity growth since the crisis. Spanish productivity, on the other hand, has taken off — albeit because its companies have been so aggressive in shedding workers. A country’s ability to lift standards of living relies heavily on its capacity to generate more output per worker. Britain’s weak performance, therefore, has been a cause for alarm since the banking crash of 2007-08, The Times reports.

The landmark sale of a 318-branch business carved out from Royal Bank of Scotland’s existing network to Grupo Santander of Spain has been hit by fresh delays, The Times has learnt. The latest problems mean that the £1.65bn deal, announced in August 2010 and at first intended to be completed at the end of 2011 and then by the end of this year, will not be cemented much before June 2013. RBS is struggling to prepare the business into an “oven-ready” form acceptable to Santander and to the Financial Services Authority, which is anxious that there should be no disruption to customers. One person familiar with negotiations said that it was proving incredibly complex “to unpick an organisation hardwired into the larger RBS-NatWest group”, writes The Times.

David Cameron was embroiled in a diplomatic bust-up with the President of Argentina about the Falklands yesterday as he refused to accept an envelope thrust at him by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Prime Minister believed that Mrs Kirchner was pulling a stunt and walked away from their confrontation after stressing repeatedly that the Falkland islanders had a right to self-determination. The details of their diplomatic spat emerged from British officials who said the envelope wielded by Mrs Kirchner was A4 size and “stuffed full” of documents. It bore the word “Malvinas” on the outside, The Times reports.

The private equity arm of French insurance group Axa has raised $8bn (£5.1bn) from investors – more than double the amount it was originally seeking – as it looks to buy assets from banks that are shoring up their capital reserves. New rules, known as Basel III, make it more expensive for banks to hold risky assets, and they need to free up capital to support their core lending and investment banking businesses. Axa Private Equity had initially been looking to raise $3.5bn for its secondary fund of funds, but ended up raising $7.1bn. An additional $900m will go towards its primary fund of funds, the group said. Demand came from investors in Asia, the Middle East and North America, it said, The Scotsman says.

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