Friday Newspaper round up

One of Spain’s biggest banks has been officially declared worse than worthless, leaving 350,000 small investors likely to be virtually wiped out in a restructuring expected to go ahead next month. The disastrous state of Bankia, a grouping of seven savings banks hammered together in 2010 and floated in 2011, shows it is valued at -4.2 billion euros (-3.5 billion pounds), dashing any lingering hopes that its shareholders might salvage anything from the wreckage. Shares in the bank — formed out of Caja Madrid and six much smaller savings banks, a deal known as Snow White and the Six Dwarfs — slumped by another 20 per cent yesterday to 0.55 euros after the latest valuation was published by the Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring, the Spanish bailout organisation. [The Times]

The US Department of Justice has opened an investigation into allegations of accounting fraud at Autonomy, the UK software maker acquired by Hewlett-Packard last year. Government officials began the investigation last month, HP said in an annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday night. HP, the world’s largest PC maker, stunned Silicon Valley last month when it accused Autonomy’s senior executives of an accounting fraud that forced it to overpay for the UK company. HP paid $11.1bn for Autonomy in August 2011 as part of a strategy to cut its reliance on the declining PC market. Autonomy’s software helps companies search unstructured data such as emails and online videos. [The Telegraph]

Barack Obama will meet congressional leaders on Friday as members of the House of Representatives prepare to return to Washington for a last-ditch attempt to head off the year-end fiscal cliff budget crisis. Republican speaker John Boehner said the House will reconvene on Sunday evening, with less than 30 hours until the US reaches the fiscal cliff deadline. Boehner warned politicians they may be working through next Friday – after the 31 December deadline – to reach a deal to avert massive tax hikes and spending cuts. The decision to call House members back came after fierce criticism from Democrat Senate leader Harry Reid, who earlier in the day had accused Republicans of “watching movies” while the budget crisis deepened. [The Guardian]

Tim Cook’s total pay package for leading Apple fell sharply in 2012 although the technology giant’s chief executive saw a big rise in the paper gains on stock awarded in previous years. Taking stock awards into account, Mr Cook’s total pay fell by 99 per cent to $4.17m for the year to September 29, according to a filing on Thursday to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr Cook’s base salary was raised by 51 per cent to $1.4m but he received no equity awards after his grant of 1m shares in 2011, which vest to the chief executive over a five- to 10-year timeframe as long as he remains with the company. [Financial Times]

Heston Blumethal specials like his figgy pudding and chocolate cake helped Waitrose to its best Christmas period ever, the John Lewis-owned supermarket chain revealed today. Sales from early November to Christmas Eve were up 7.7 per cent on a year ago, while 23 December was its busiest Sunday ever. Waitrose also saw a 37 per cent surge in online sales as it competed head to head with its online grocery rival Ocado for the first time within the M25. [The Independent]

Toyota has agreed to pay an estimated $1.1 billion (£700 million) to settle US lawsuits relating to the biggest safety crisis in its history. Shares in the Japanese car giant rose yesterday as investors said the legal settlement removed one uncertainty for the company and looked manageable given its improving sales outlook. Since 2009, the group has had to recall more than 14 million vehicles worldwide after floor mats became trapped under the accelerator. The settlement, which still needs to be approved by a US judge, would see American owners compensated for economic losses and for the cost of safety changes to their vehicles. [The Scotsman]

The dearth of women at the top of British companies can only be addressed by introducing boardroom quotas, according to the first female general secretary of the TUC. In an outspoken interview with The Independent, Frances O’Grady said that women executives needed “extra help” to combat a cliquish male culture that still favours underqualified men. “We need to break down the group-think that is too evident in boardroom decisions,” she said. “Frankly some of the men who are there didn’t get there on merit either.” The intervention of Ms O’Grady, who takes over as head of the Trades Union Congress in the new year, will push the controversial issue of employment quotas for women back up the political agenda. [The Independent]

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