Friday Newspaper round up

UK authorities are probing an allegation that Barclays loaned Qatar money to invest in the bank as part of its cash call at the height of the financial crisis in 2008, which enabled the bank to avoid a UK government bailout. While the terms of Barclays’ emergency fundraising have been under the scrutiny of the Financial Services Authority and the Serious Fraud Office since the summer – with a particular focus on fees paid for the deal – allegations over a loan to the Qataris is a new thread of the investigation. Two sources familiar with the situation have independently told the Financial Times of the investigation into the alleged loan. [Financial Times]

The Chinese economy paused for breath at the start of 2013 according to a survey that showed a dip in growth in its manufacturing sector last month. The official purchasing managers’ index, a gauge of the industrial sector, edged down to 50.4 in January from 50.6 in December. In remaining above the midpoint of 50 for the fourth consecutive month, the reading still signalled an expansion in activity but at a slightly reduced pace. [Financial Times]

The Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Peter Jones is to run Jessops as an online-only retailer after buying the brand of the collapsed camera business from administrators. PricewaterhouseCoopers, the administrators to Jessops, said that Mr Jones is among a “number of buyers” to have purchased assets from the retailer, including its remaining stock and intellectual property. [The Telegraph]

Thousands of small businesses that were mis-sold interest rate hedging products may run out of time to make a claim unless they make rapid contact with their bank. The Financial Services Authority’s decision to force Britain’s four biggest banks to review thousands of past sales of swap products to small businesses and pay compensation in a “significant” number of cases may catch out some customers, experts said.

Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland will conduct the review within a year, with most cases resolved in six months. The banks will start writing to customers next week. However, under contract law, businesses have six years to bring a claim. As many of the swaps were sold in 2006 and 2007, thousands that wait for banks to contact them may find that the statute of limitations runs out. [The Times]

The UK head of tax at Ernst & Young, the accountancy firm that audits Google, Amazon and Facebook, has admitted that international guidelines that allow online firms to pay much lower corporation tax than their rivals are outdated and in need of urgent reform. John Dixon told a committee of MPs that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which drafts the politically contentious rules, was facing a “difficulty … [it] needs to address” because the codes established decades ago never envisaged an explosion in online commerce. [The Guardian]

There was intense speculation in the City last night about the future of Seymour Pierce, the stockbroker led by football deal maker Keith Harris. Mr Harris, the Square Mile’s “Mr Football”, has brokered some of the biggest deals in the game, and is often linked to many others that do not come to fruition.

Rumours that Seymour was in some difficulty have been the talk of the City for some months, with low levels of takeover activity and little appetite from investors to take risks hitting earnings at all but the biggest brokers. The firm is known to have been seeking a cash injection from an outside investor for some time. City sources say that administration is a possibility but insist that it is not imminent. Mr Harris is said to be seeking funds of perhaps £3m. [The Independent]

The US has stepped in the middle of Anheuser-Busch Inbev’s (ABI) $20bn (£13bn) deal to buy up the Mexican brewery business Grupo Modelo, with federal lawyers filing a suit claiming the move would hit competition in the American beer market. The deal would bring together two of the most successful beer brands in the US, namely ABI’s Bud Light, and Grupo Modelo’s Corona Extra. [The Independent]

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