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The Times 

Tiddler to Watch: Birmingham City Council, the largest local authority in Europe, has given Ideagen a timely boost. The councils Service Birmingham joint venture with Capita handed a three-year contract to the small compliance software developer. Ideagen, which graduated to AIM from PLUS in July, surged 20%, or 31/4p, to 193/4p, as it continues to grow in stature. 

Deal of the day: Sanjiv Ahuja, formerly Chief Executive of Orange in the U.K., and his wife, Anju, have built a 4.4% stake in Manganese Bronze, the maker of black cabs. The news provides some relief for the struggling taxi maker, although the long-term plans of Mr Ahuja – who has been busy with the 4G Lightsquared project in the U.S., are not clear. Shares were flat at 12p. 

Gilts: There was volatile trading in European bond markets in the run up to the European Central Bank meeting next week that could trigger a fresh buyback programme. Gilts followed German bunds lower. The safe haven status of bonds lost some shine after Angela Merkel praised Italian reforms to cut debt. September gilt futures were 15 ticks lower at 121.65. 

Soaring costs force Gazprom to quit vast Arctic gasfield: Gazprom, the state-controlled gas group, has spent the past 20 years trying to develop the giant Shtokman field. But soaring costs and a glut of cheap shale gas from the United States have scuppered the flagship project in Russias sector of the icy Barents Sea, about 300 miles north of Finland. 

Miners stay away despite campaign of reassurance: Lonmins South African mines remained shut after its workers stayed away for fear of reprisals from militant, striking colleagues. For the second day running, only 8% of the platinum producers 28,000 workforce showed up, despite Lonmin launching a concerted campaign of reassurance with leaflets, radio announcements and more visible security. 

Citigroup pays $600 million to defuse toxic time bomb: Citigroup has agreed to settle one of the largest lawsuits stemming from losses incurred during the financial crisis. Shareholders sued the bank, alleging that billions of dollars of toxic assets, including sub-prime mortgages, had been hidden on its balance sheet before 2008 and that this led to heavy losses when the financial system fell into crisis. 

Ports group becalmed by a decline in world cargo: A slowdown in commercial cargo traffic through the worlds shipping routes has held back first-half profits at DP World. The group, part of the Dubai World empire based in the United Arab Emirates, said that pretax profits for the six months to the end of June rose by just 1.5% to $310 million. 

RBS poised to leave worthless government insurance scheme: Royal Bank of Scotland is just weeks away from a symbolic exit from a key government insurance scheme, with the Treasury agency that runs it telling staff that they will soon not have jobs. The Asset Protection Agency, which guarantees the state-controlled bank against excess losses on about 100 billion of assets, has already been reduced from a staff of more than 50 to a skeleton crew of 12. 

Small mercy for Samsung in courts phone ban delay: The court that handed Apple a sweeping victory in its patent battle against arch-rival Samsung has set a December D-Day for a potential ban on the sale of the South Korean companys mobile phones in the U.S. 

The Independent 

Divi back at 888 as earnings double: The online gaming firm 888 is confident enough about the future to reinstate its interim dividend after seeing earnings double on the back of booming demand for its casino and poker products. Profit for the first six months of the year hit $18.4 million (11.6 million), compared with a loss of $22 million last time around. 

Bank sees a long battle ahead to boost U.K. borrowing:The Bank of England is braced for a long battle to get credit flowing through its new, 80 billion Funding for Lending scheme, a senior rate-setter warned. 

Serco in a profits wobble after delays to spending in U.K.: Austerity in the U.K. and a coming presidential election in the U.S. have hit profits at Serco, the outsourcing giant behind Londons Boris bikes. Delays to government spending have hit the flow of public-sector work in Sercos core British market, which represents around half group profit, while the race between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama has choked spending plans in the U.S., leading to hold-ups in contracts. 

Olympic Games boost cheers Chimes profits: The Olympics have been a boon to the advertising and marketing group Chime Communications as operating profits at its sports division surged by more than two thirds. 

The Daily Telegraph 

Rise in foreign landlords is crowding out first-time buyers: An influx of foreign investors is driving a resurgence in Britains buy-to-let market, holding house prices steady but threatening to push up rents and crowd out first-time buyers. 

U.S. economic growth revised up to 1.7%: The U.S. economy fared slightly better than initially thought in the second quarter, but the rate of growth was too slow to close the door on further stimulus by the Federal Reserve. U.S. gross domestic product grew at a 1.7% annual pace in the quarter, the Commerce Department said, up from an initial estimate of 1.5%. 

Copper price fall weighs on Antofagasta profits: Copper miner Antofagasta reported a drop in its half year profits as the price of the metal slid downwards. The FTSE 100 producer, controlled by Chiles Luksic family, saw revenues rise by 3.5% to $3.1 billion (2 billion) for the six months to the end of June. 

The Questor Column: 

You wont clean up with Berendsen but its a safe haven: Textile service group Berendsen has posted a better-than-expected set of interim results. In the past financial year, 36% of revenues came from the U.K. and Ireland, 26% from Continental Europe and 38% from the Nordic region, where the economy is proving more robust. In the six months to June, revenues fell 2% to 488.2 million but pretax profits rose 21% to 39.6 million. Margins are also showing a year-on-year improvement and, in the core growth businesses, rose 110 basis points to 17.3%. Cash conversion was also very good, coming in at 119%. Berendsen plans to sustain organic revenue growth rates of GDP plus 1% to 2% each year and achieve underlying earnings per share growth in the high single digits. It is targeting cash conversion of at least 100% and an after tax return on invested capital of towards the double digits. Berendsen at 526p+2p. Questor Says Buy. 

John Laing Infrastructure Fund can help build your portfolio: John Laing Infrastructure Fund (JLIF) invests in long-term projects with a stable return and long life. The company invests in assets that are at an operational stage instead of at the construction phase, which reduces risk. In the six months to June, the company paid a dividend of 3p a share. This is in line with expectations after last years full year payout was 6p a share. If the dividend total is not raised, the prospective yield is about 5.5%. The portfolios valuation increased by 4.5% in the period to 449.4 million, with the net asset value per share at 104.8p – a 5.3% discount to the share price. JLIF says it is actively pursuing other opportunities in the secondary infrastructure market. It has already completed six transactions this year, with the majority of these transactions from vendors other than John Laing. The fund was spun off from construction group John Laing and it gets first refusal on any PFI assets being sold by the group. John Laing Infrastructure Fund at 110.7p+0.1p. Questor Says Buy. 

The Guardian 

Christmas comes early as Asda opens Santas grottos in August: August is not yet over but Christmas has come four months early at Asda, which has opened a string of Santas grottos at stores across the country. The supermarket chain said the grottos were designed to encourage people to start saving for the festive season. 

South Koreas Hanwha buys German solar business: A struggling German solar business has been bought by a South Korean firm as the appetite of Asian companies for their western rivals shows no sign of letting up. Creditors of Q-Cells agreed on Wednesday to hand over ownership to Hanwha of South Korea with the loss of a further 200 jobs. 

Burlington Hotel in Dublin for sale at quarter of 2007 price: Dublins Burlington Hotel, which changed hands for 288 million (228 million) at the height of the property boom, is up for sale for a quarter of that price. The four-star Burlington was bought in 2007 by a consortium backed by Bernard McNamara from the Jurys Doyle hotel group for one of the highest prices for land in Dublin ever. 

Superfast mobile internet plans slowed by threat of legal action: Plans to launch 4G superfast mobile internet in the U.K. before Christmas have been thrown into turmoil by a threat of legal action from the O2 network. 

Daily Mail 

Paddy Power odds on for success as half year profits rise: Positive sporting results and a trend towards online betting helped boost half year profits at Paddy Power. The Irish bookmaker said pretax profit rose to 54.5 million in the six months to 30 June, up from 44.6 million a year earlier. 

Powerful heir Abigail Johnson takes charge of 1 trillion U.S. investment house Fidelity: Abigail Johnson has been crowned the most powerful woman in fund management after she was anointed as President of U.S. investment house Fidelity. But experts say she faces a tough task to turn around performance at the family firm, which has fallen out of favour with investors. 

Daily Express 

Hi-Tech store is the way ahead for MS: Marks Spencer Boss Marc Bolland unveiled his new flagship store, showcasing high-tech features and new formats that are a key part of his turnaround plans. The 151,000 square feet shop at Cheshire Oaks, Ellesmere Port, is the companys largest outside London and is second only in size to its Marble Arch outlet in the capital. 

G4S wont stop Serco: The Boss of outsourcing giant Serco insisted the problems of security group G4S should not hinder the private sectors ability to win government contracts. FTSE100 member Sercos operations range from running prisons and immigration control services to schools inspections and military bases. 

EU probe into Ryanairs bid: The EU launched an in-depth investigation into the planned 550 million takeover of Irish airline Aer Lingus by budget carrier Ryanair because of concerns it would harm competition. 

Dominos gets a bigger pizza the action: Fast food firm Dominos Pizza grabbed a bigger slice of Europe as it bought the chains franchise in Switzerland and eyed up tastier online sales. The London-listed group, with 748 stores in the U.K., Ireland and Germany, paid up to 5 million for Dominos Swiss franchise and its 12 stores. 

The Scottish Herald 

4 million Arla deal win for ACT Construction: A specialist construction firm has won its largest ever contract, guaranteeing employment for its Scottish workforce for the next 12 months. ACT Construction, which focuses on building cold storage facilities, has secured a tender for work at the Arla Food dairy in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. The contract is worth more than 4 million. 

Plans for future of Dawson assessed: Administrators of the failed Dawson International cashmere business were examining the options for the future of the company. 

Dart secures $100 million loan for gas extraction projects: Dart Energy International has secured a new $100 million (63 million) banking facility with HSBC to move its power generation projects forward. The Australian company said it will use the cash on a number of sites including its coal bed methane (CBM) development at Airth in Scotland. 

Records approval for health IT firm: Edinburgh healthcare information technology firm Craneware has been given the go-ahead to provide systems allowing medical records to be submitted electronically to auditors. 

7.9 million splashed out on tidal energy: The Mull of Kintyre is to be the test site for a new generation of tidal energy technology being developed by Strathclyde University spin-out Nautricity after it received a 1.4 million Scottish Government award. 

The Scotsman 

MacBrayne Chief quits as privatisation drum beats: Ferry company David MacBrayne has confirmed the departure of its Chief Executive amid ongoing controversy over the future operation of CalMacs lifeline services to Scotlands island communities. 

Accor misjudges the pressures on southern European market: Europes largest hotel group has warned that its full-year profits could miss analysts forecasts after demand for rooms across southern Europe deteriorated during the summer. 

Leet of 12 announced for ANM Group vote: No fewer than 12 candidates have put their names forward to fill two vacancies on the Board of Directors of Inverurie-based farmers co-operative, ANM Group. 

Government rejects calls for part-payment of SFP subsidy: The Scottish Government firmly rejected appeals to pay part of the single farm payment (SFP) in advance to help farmers cope with the late harvest and escalating winter feed costs. 

City A.M. 

Bankia losses set to spiral as housing market falls further: Troubled Spanish lender Bankia is set to report enormous losses in the first half of the year, analysts warned ahead of its financial results, due to be released on Friday. 

HM to step up expansion with its first store in South America: Swedish clothing giant HM said it will make its first foray into South America by opening a store in Chile, as it continues its rapid expansion into new markets. 

ING secures 2 billion Canada bank sale as plots Hong Kong sell-off: Canadas Bank of Nova Scotia agreed to buy ING Groeps Canadian online bank for C$3.1 billion (2 billion) taking advantage of a rare opportunity to grab market share in the countrys crowded retail banking space. 

Casino sale nets Permira $750 million: European private equity firm Permira raised $750 million (474 million) by selling around half of its stake in Macau casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group, sources said. 

RusPetro records loss despite higher oil production levels: Russian-focused oil and gas firm RusPetro reported a pretax loss of $26.4 million in the six months to 30 June. RusPetro, which listed on the LSE in January, said the cost of sales and administrative expenses dragged profits down. 

Severstal profit drops 74%: Russias third-largest steelmaker Severstal slumped to a 74% profit drop in the second quarter of this year, to $155 million (98 million). The company cited foreign exchange losses and the spinoff of its gold mining business, Nordgold, earlier this year for the drop in profits. 

 

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