Wednesday Newspaper round up.

George Osborne will announce he is to raise taxes on banks for the fifth time today as he sets out the need for deeper and longer-lasting spending cuts in a bleak mini-budget. In an attempt to convince voters that he intends to share the pain of austerity evenly, the Chancellor will risk accusations of hypocrisy from the City by again turning to the banking sector. Mr Osborne told Cabinet colleagues yesterday that he was cutting most of their budgets heavily to help to find five billion pounds for new schools, transport schemes and science funding. [The Times]

Plans to create a eurozone banking union hit a brick wall on Tuesday after Germany’s influential finance minister cautioned over moving too quickly, casting doubts over whether the EU would seal a deal by the end of the year. The objections from Wolfgang Schäuble come just a week before a summit of EU leaders and raise the prospect of a significant delay to establishing a single eurozone banking supervisor, a reform billed as critical to rebuilding confidence in the bloc’s shaky financial sector. Some of Mr Schäuble’s counterparts at a gathering in Brussels warned that markets could be spooked by any sign that the EU was backing away from consolidating banking oversight, just five months after agreeing to pursue it. [Financial Times]

Sir Philip Green is close to selling a 25pc stake in Topshop and Topman to an American private equity firm in a move that will generate a multi-million pound windfall for the retail tycoon. The colourful billionaire is in advanced talks to sell the stake in the high street chains to Leonard Green & Partners for as much as £250m. A source close to the deal which is not finalised but is expected to be announced tomorrow, said it would give Sir Philip a powerful war chest to “buy, deal and expand around the world”. The retailer, estimated to be worth £3bn, is driving an ambitious international expansion programme in America and Asia. [The Telegraph]

David Cameron is ready to give voters the chance of rejecting Britain’s membership of the European Union in a landmark referendum. In his gamble, Mr Cameron would urge the public to support a looser relationship with Brussels that he hopes to negotiate over the coming years. But he is ready to give the country the chance to say “no” to such a deal, a result that would effectively be seen as a vote to quit the EU, at least on the proposed terms. [The Times]

Flour mills have been forced to order the biggest wheat imports in more than 30 years after the spring weather hit British farmers’ crops. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said millers were expected to import 2m tonnes of mostly German wheat to make up for a 13% shortfall in the homegrown crop. It will be the biggest wheat import since 1980, and is expected to lead to a substantial increase in the price of bread next year. [The Guardian]

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is claiming as much as $1bn in damages from Swiss Re, the reinsurer it propped up during the financial crisis with an emergency capital injection.
Swiss Re quietly disclosed in its 104-page earnings report last month that Berkshire was making various allegations that the reinsurer said were “without merit”. The dispute relates to losses Berkshire has endured in its deal to provide what Swiss Re described as retrocession –– in effect, reinsurance for reinsurance – to the Zurich-based company’s US life and health arm. [Financial Times]

Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea football club, is seeking to end a four-year power struggle between two fellow Russian resources heavyweights after agreeing to buy a $2bn (£1.2bn) stake in their company Norilsk Nickel. Mr Abramovich is buying 7.3 per cent of the world’s largest nickel and palladium miner, in which he is expected to play the role of a “white knight”, acting as a buffer between the Russian tycoons Vladimir Potanin and Oleg Deripaska, who each control about a quarter of Norilsk Nickel. [The Independent]

Britain’s biggest travel company paid no UK corporation tax in its last financial year despite posting record annual profits. Thomson and First Choice operator Tui Travel hailed a “renaissance” of the package holiday as it reported an 8 per cent leap in underlying pre-tax profits to £390 million. Profits at its UK and Ireland division grew 32 per cent to £197m as customers opted for its highly profitable range of “unique” branded holidays. But its UK corporation tax bill was zero as a result of losses incurred following a restructuring launched five years ago. It said it would start paying tax again once those losses have been carried forward and that it was paying the “right amount of corporation tax” in the countries in which it operates.[The Scotsman]

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