The Greeks are seeking a two-year extension of its latest austerity programme aimed at improving the country’s debt sustainability and prospects for a return to growth, according to a document obtained by the Financial Times. Antonis Samaras, the centre-right prime minister, is expected to outline the proposal during talks next week with Angela Merkel, German chancellor, in Berlin and French President François Hollande in Paris. It comes as Greece struggles to find another €11.5bn of spending cuts – equivalent to about 5 per cent of national output – to be implemented in 2013 and 2014 under the current bailout deal with the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Financial Times
Also in th Financial Times, Australia’s High Court has rejected a challenge by the world’s biggest tobacco companies which are seeking to overturn a new law requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging from the start of December. The country’s plain packaging act, which was approved by parliament last year, requires cigarettes to be sold in drab dark brown packaging without logos but featuring graphic images of smoking-related diseases. Brand names can still be used but only in a standard font, size and position.
Standard Chartered was forced to pay a $340 million fine last night to settle damaging allegations from a New York regulator that it had indulged in a “wilful and egregious” breach of American sanctions against Iran. In an eleventh-hour settlement before a meeting in the United States due to take place this morning, the bank also agreed to permanently install staff at its New York branch to monitor its anti-money-laundering practices. It has agreed to report directly to New York State’s Department of Financial Services, which levelled the charges, about the quality of its risk controls for at least the next two years. The Times
The Government could fund a £20bn tax giveaway to boost growth next year by releasing the profits made by the Bank of England’s money-printing programme, a leading economist has suggested. Michael Saunders, UK economist at Citi, said the Government could use the “accumulated profits from quantitative easing (QE) to finance a special temporary tax cut for a year or two”. According to official figures, the “potential profit” by February 2013 from QE to the Bank is £20.7bn – more than enough to knock 2.5p off income tax for a year. The Telegraph
Russia’s giant, state-owned railway company is eyeing a London float in a part-privatisation that would value it at more than 1.7trn roubles (£33bn). Russian Railways, whose assets include 85,200km of track, 1 million employees and 1 billion passengers, is planning to sell as much as a quarter of the business in 2015 or 2016 through a share listing. Vladimir Yakunin, Russian Railways’ president, told The Independent that London was his preferred location, after Trans Container, Russian Railways’ “daughter” container-handling operation, was floated there in 2010. The Independent
Shares in Groupon plummeted Tuesday as the firm once billed as “the fastest growing company ever” said sales had slowed. The daily deals site reported its first-ever quarterly profit as a public company on Monday after stock markets had closed. Revenues increased 45% on the year. But the sell-off began as investors took fright at numbers that seem to suggest a slowing appetite for daily deals. The stock price plummeted in after-hours trading and continued to fall when the markets opened Tuesday. Groupon’s shares fell more than 26% to close at $5.53. Its shares are now worth about a fifth of their $31 high. The Guardian