The Sunday Telegraph
Whitbread is considering the sale of all of its high street restaurants in an effort to focus on its more successful operations. Its financial advisers have contacted a number of potential bidders and offered them the businesses for around £300m. The package is thought to include around 930 restaurants including the Pelican group which owns Café Rouge and Bella pasta restaurants. It is also thought to include Costa coffee shops, TGI Friday's and the group's stake in Pizza Hut. Read more from thePublican.com
Iceland, which owns Booker cash and carry, has dropped its auditors Ernst & Young, although there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing or negligence. Iceland is being investigated by the Department of Trade and Industry because of share-dealings by former chairman Malcolm Walker. It also faces an investigation by the UK Listing Authority into announcements made by the company over the past year.
Ten million cigarettes are smuggled into Britain every day, comprising one in five of those smoked, according to Customs and Excise for Harwich and Felixstowe. A smuggler was towed to customs officers after his boat carrying 880lb of tobacco became snagged in fishing lines in the Channel. Steven Halfpenny, of Warsash, Hampshire, admitted fraudulent evasion of duty, estimated at £43,000, and was jailed for six months.
A prominent preacher and a top cleric have published a parody of the Lord's prayer to reflect the outlook of a heavy drinking young male. It begins: "Our beer, which art in barrels, hallowed be thy drink."
Scientists have discovered drugs for tackling alcoholism which make users sick if they mix them with alcohol but reward abstinence by inducing feelings of optimism and wellbeing.
Nightclub Ministry of Sound is set to sell a 20 per cent stake in its business to the 3i venture capital group. The deal will value the company at about £100m and could be a precursor to a stock market flotation or a sale to a larger group in a related business, such as music giant EMI. Founder James Palumbo is keen to open new venues apart from its single London club. It tried to tie up a deal earlier this year to license its brand to Luminar, but agreement could not be reached.
Esporta, the health club chain formerly owned by First Leisure, is close to selling its Espree clubs to rival Top Notch for an estimated £4m.
The Sunday Times
City fund managers have to decide by next Monday how to vote on Pubmaster's bid for Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries, so this week advisers from both sides are making final presentations to institutions. The vote is going to be closer than many analysts have predicted, and the case for W&DB has been helped by support from shareholder Silchester, which owns a 11.3 per cent stake. Pubmaster has the support of 16.5 per cent and is confident it can top 50 per cent by the close of this week. The W&DB bid battle has dragged on for too long, and Pubmaster must share the blame for this. Many fund managers had hoped for a knock-out cash bid of 520p and are disappointed it went to only 513p. But they will find it hard to resist the cash, and Pubmaster should scrape home. Read more from thePublican.com
The Independent on Sunday
Laws introduced to help small businesses suffering from late payment have been exposed as a failure. The legislation, which gave small companies such as pubs the right to demand interest for late payments, is not working and businesses are actually taking longer to pay their invoices, according to information solutions company Experian.
An outspoken global strategy analyst, Albert Edwards, has warned that Tuesday August 7 may see stocks around the world crash. Brokers at his bank, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, are being warned that "the risks of an equity crash are high" because of the fall-out over internet and technology companies.
Mail on Sunday
Nomura Principal Finance Group has secretly put 102 of its pubs up for sale. The outlets, spread throughout the country, are part of the 988-strong estate bought from Bass in February to create Voyager Pub Group. It said the pubs would do better as managed houses run by a central pub company. The sale, which is being managed by agent Christie & Co, is not being advertised. Brochures are being sent to selected corporate buyers. The deadline for a sale is August 10. Nomura is also awaiting the results of a review of Unique Pub Company, which could lead to a complete sale of the estate for up to £1.3bn. Christie is also handling the sale of 48 freeholds by Noble House Leisure and Whitbread's 14 Dome cafes bought by the Laurel Pub Company.
Iceland, which owns Booker cash and carry, faces an inquiry by the City's watchdog, the Financial Services Authority. It is looking at whether Iceland has been sufficiently open with shareholders about its performance and looking at the company's code covering share-dealing by directors. The Department of Trade and Industry has already launched an inquiry to discover whether there had been insider dealing in the company's shares.
Benson & Hedges cigarettes manufacturer Gallaher could become the target of a three-way takeover battle after US tobacco giant Philip Morris, owner of the Marlboro brand, declared ambitious plans for UK growth.
Firms are taking longer to pay bills despite new laws aimed at curbing late payers. Research by credit information company Experian reveals that businesses now take an average 60 days to pay compared with 59 days six months ago and 58 days when legislation was introduced in 1998.
Hilton Group is in talks to take over the German hotels of troubled Queens Moat Houses for about £250m.
Scotland on Sunday
Philip Riddle, the new head of Scottish tourism at VisitScotland, has told Scotland's hospitality industry that standards of food, training and service must improve. He found major inconsistencies on food standards in the middle to lower end of the market. He intends to reverse the damaging decline in the numbers of overseas visitors coming to Scotland. Figures released by VisitScotland last month showed a five per cent decline in 2000 to add to drops of around 10 per cent in each of the previous two years. This year, the numbers are expected to fall even further due to the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. Extra money was pledged by the Scottish Executive last week to target the lucrative American market.
Shares in bar operator Springwood look attractive at 131p. Its £13m takeover of Kingfisher Leisure could be money well spent. Its shares have had a rough ride, falling from 204p last year, but Kingfisher's exposure to southern England should provide a good strategic fit. Read more from thePublican.com
Millions of people will miss out on top soccer action and other highlights when ITV's new sports channel launches next weekend. A dispute between rival television companies means the much-heralded ITV Sport channel will kick off without having secured access to the majority of the UK's pay-TV households. Sky's 5.6 million subscribers are unlikely to have access to the channel for its big debut because it has failed to reach a commercial deal with ITV Sport. ITV Sport has exclusive live rights to the European Champions' League, the Nationwide Football League and Worthington Cup. The games will also be available to ITV Digital's subscribers.
No industry-related news.