Friction between France and Germany set the scene for a bumpy summit today in which European Union leaders are to lay the groundwork for bolstering the fragile Eurozone and open the way to a two-tier Europe with Britain on the outside. President Hollande fired an undiplomatic broadside at Germany, urging France’s traditional co-pillar of the EU to show more solidarity with the weaker members, desist from red herrings over political union and live up to pledges made at the last summit in June. “We are all taking part in this solidarity, not just the Germans,” the Socialist President told Le Monde and other newspapers. “Let’s stop thinking that there is only one country that is going to pay for all the others. That is false.” Chancellor Merkel should subordinate her domestic concerns, he said. “Our common responsibility is to put Europe’s interests first,” The Times writes.
Chinese growth has slowed for a seventh consecutive quarter, leading to fears that the world’s second largest economy is nearing the end of an unsustainable age of rapid expansion. China’s GDP grew 7.4% in the third quarter of the year according to data from The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Last year the country saw growth of 9.2% and over the last three decades the average has been nearer to 10%. The figure for the last quarter was the weakest since the first three months of 2009, when the global financial crisis weighed on China and led to relatively subdued growth of 6.6%. The deepening crisis has been causing slowing growth in China’s economy every quarter since early last year. But government officials said that there were signs that the country was stabilising, The Telegraph says.
BP is on the verge of clinching an historic deal with Rosneft that would see the Russian state-controlled group take control of TNK-BP and hand the UK company a major stake in what would be the world’s largest listed oil producer. Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin flew to London on Wednesday to discuss acquiring BP’s 50% stake in Russian joint-venture TNK-BP and on Thursday morning is expected to make a cash and shares offer worth up to $28bn (£17.3bn). The development came after Rosneft on Tuesday night signed a preliminary deal with AAR, the oligarchs who own the other half of TNK-BP, to buy their 50% stake in the venture for $28bn. The oligarchs had planned to table a bid for BP’s stake but had been unable to raise financing, according to The Telegraph.
The chairman of crisis-hit Bumi faces questions over whether he was working on a controversial “divorce” deal with the mining group’s Indonesian backers months before it was announced. Emails seen by The Daily Telegraph appear to show that as early as July, chairman Samin Tan was in talks with the Bakries, the powerful Indonesian family, over a £750m proposal announced last week to buy back Bumi’s coal assets. Financier Nat Rothschild, another major investor in the FTSE 250’s Bumi, is fighting the deal, on Monday announcing his surprise resignation from the board and accusing Mr Tan of being “complicit” in the “oppression” of shareholders.
A leading Standard Chartered banker involved in making a $1bn (£620m) loan to the Indonesian chairman of the London-listed miner Bumi has quit after the bank struggled to get other lenders on board. Samin Tan used the funds to buy a stake in the coal-miner only to see the investment plunge in value from $1bn to $230m as the board was rattled by rifts between key shareholders, including the financier Nat Rothschild and Indonesia’s influential Bakrie group. More recently, Bumi launched an investigation into alleged financial irregularities at its Indonesian units. The loan is secured, reducing the British bank’s risk, but so far it has sold down just $230m of the loan, leaving $770m on its books. Sources told Reuters Peter Kay, the global head of leveraged finance syndication at Standard Chartered, was pushed out of the bank, The Independent reports.
Retail chains shut an average of 20 stores a day in the first six months of this year as the pace of high street closures accelerated. A net total of 953 stores (openings minus closures) closed in the first half of the year, compared with 174 in the whole of 2011, according to new figures from consultants PwC and the Local Data Company, a retail information provider. This equated to 20 stores operated by the retail chains on average closing every day, compared with 14 a day in 2011. “All retailers in distress have too many locations,” said Mike Jervis, PwC insolvency partner and retail specialist. “Relatively long leases, with inflexible terms, have been entered into in a growth phase of the economy which is no longer appropriate,” The Financial Times writes.
Energy companies will be forced to place customers on the cheapest suitable tariff in an attempt to curb soaring household bills, the Prime Minister announced yesterday. In a move hailed as a “big moment” by one consumer group, David Cameron said that the forthcoming Energy Bill would compel companies by law to guarantee consumers the best deal. The move, which surprised the Department of Energy and Climate Change, comes amid growing concern in government at the impact on voters of rising gas and electricity prices. It is the first new policy since Mr Cameron used his Conservative conference speech to promise to deliver for “strivers” and marks what will be a sharply-contested battle with Labour for the votes of squeezed households, The Times says.
Bumi investors could be forced to decide whether to sever ties with the Bakrie family without knowing the full extent of the alleged financial irregularities at their Indonesian subsidiaries, the City grandee trying to restore order there has admitted.Sir Julian Horn-Smith, deputy chairman and senior non-executive director, told The Times that Bumi may be unable to publish the full details of its investigation for legal reasons. He said that any Indonesian authority also carrying out investigations into the companies could order Bumi to keep them secret so any potential trial was not prejudiced. “I would personally like to see as much made public as possible, ideally 100%. But our legal advice may say we are not allowed to do so if an agency is already investigating [Bumi].” He insisted that the board of Bumi would recommend to shareholders whether to accept the Bakrie divorce proposal after having examining the full details of the investigation.