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Sunday newspaper round-up: RBS, HS2 v hyperloop, soft Brexit, UK biotechs

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Sunday newspaper round-up: RBS, HS2 v hyperloop, soft Brexit, UK biotechs

Sun, 27 August 2017
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Sunday newspaper round-up: RBS, HS2 v hyperloop, soft Brexit, UK biotechs

(ShareCast News) - A division of the taxpayer-owned RBS bank which was meant to help companies in trouble mistreated many of its clients but did not try to "profit from their distress", according to a leaked report by the regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority. According to the report, seen by the BBC, investigators found "inappropriate action" by Global Restructuring Group (GRG) was experienced by 92% of "viable firms" they dealt with. - Observer
The government has been urged to scrap HS2 and instead invest billions in futuristic "hyperloop" transport technology to boost the economy of northern England. Hyperloop systems, which are being developed by US entrepreneurs including Tesla founder Elon Musk, are magnetically levitating pods that travel through a vacuum tunnel at speeds close to the sound barrier - potentially putting Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds or Newcastle within about 30 minutes of the capital. - Sunday Times

Almost a million EU citizens working in Britain - many of them young, highly qualified and much sought-after by businesses - are either planning to leave the country or have already made up their minds to go as a result of Brexit, a study has found. A survey of 2,000 EU workers in Britain by KPMG, the professional services firm, found that 55% of those with PhDs and 49% of those with postgraduate degrees were either planning to go or were actively considering it. - Observer

Labour is promoting itself as the party of "soft Brexit" with a new policy of keeping the UK in the EU single market and customs union, perhaps indefinitely. The government has indicated it will seek a limited transitional arrangement with the EU after Britain leaves in March 2019. The Labour shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, said last night that under a Labour government the UK could stay in the single market and the customs union if a deal could be struck with the EU over freedom of movement. - Sunday Times

Theresa May is under pressure to reassure Japanese companies over the likely impact of Britain's exit from the European Union on their UK investments when she visits Tokyo this week. The prime minister will arrive on Wednesday on a three-day trip that is expected to include a meeting with Emperor Akihito and free-trade talks with her Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe. - Observer

Young Britons hoping a house price crash will let them buy a home could see their dreams thwarted, leading economists warn. David Miles, a former member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee and now a professor at London's Imperial College, and colleague James Sefton argue in an influential report that house prices could continue to defy gravity. The two say home values will carry on rising until the typical property costs 15 times the average income. - Mail on Sunday

A government-backed plan to create four new British biotech titans - each worth more than £20bn - is to be unveiled this week. Sir John Bell, a world-renowned Oxford University professor and adviser to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will reveal his recommendations for an industrial strategy for the life sciences sector in Birmingham on Wednesday, with industry sources suggesting he will advocate tax breaks and direct state investment to give additional support to Britain's £60bn life sciences industry. - Sunday Times

It may not be glamorous, but Stevenage is set to become a world-leading centre for gene therapies, the new wave of pioneering treatments that hold great promise for tackling illnesses such as cancer and rare diseases. On the outskirts of the somewhat drab Hertfordshire town, a Government-backed drug development factory is springing up that covers an area the size of the pitch at Wembley Stadium. It will house start-ups dedicated to the fast-growing branch of gene medicine, which fights illnesses by modifying genetic code. - Sunday Telegraph

AstraZeneca, Britain's second-largest drugmaker, has decided to expand its biggest UK factory after reversing a decision to put investment plans on hold because of Brexit uncertainty. The move, worth tens of millions of pounds, will be a boost for Britain's £60bn life sciences industry. It is expected to be announced this week to coincide with the government's launch of its industrial strategy for the sector in Birmingham on Wednesday. - Observer

A new class of drugs which could prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths from cancer has been hailed as the biggest breakthrough since statins. Scientists last night said the discovery ushered in "a new era of therapeutics" which work in an entirely different way to conventional treatment, with Novartis' canakinumab drug halving the chances of dying from cancer and protected against gout and arthritis. - Sunday Telegraph

The multi-billion pound insurance industry, which ridiculously badges itself as a national success story, is discriminating against millions of loyal customers in the relentless pursuit of new business. A major probe into the seedy world of insurance by The Mail on Sunday, based on the views of hundreds of readers, shows widespread disillusionment among many former longstanding customers of some of the biggest insurance brands in the country.

Traditional broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV and Sky could lose a combined £1bn per year if rival services from Amazon, Facebook and YouTube become dominant players in the TV industry over the next decade. A new report says that UK broadcasters could suffer the same fate as industries including music, news, insurance and property where powerful digital newcomers - including Apple, Google, YouTube, Moneysupermarket and Rightmove - muscled in as middlemen to take a significant share of revenues. - Observer

Estée Lauder shares flirted with all-time highs last week amid speculation the make-up giant is working with bankers at Goldman Sachs and Evercore on a sale, following a takeover approach worth more than $40bn (£31bn). Reports suggest several other consumer good giants, such as FTSE 100-listed Unilever, are now looking at taking part in any Estée Lauder sale process. - Sunday Times

The internet is "very, very early on" in its evolution and is about to be unleashed on a swathe of industries so far untouched by its power for disruption, according to one of the most influential investors in Silicon Valley. In an exclusive interview, Marc Andreessen, the billionaire venture capitalist and co-founder of revolutionary web browser Netscape, said the next wave of technological disruption will have an impact on sectors previously thought safe from its reach - including law, medicine and construction. A steep drop in start-up costs is encouraging innovation, he said. - Sunday Times

A new register naming firms that find themselves under shareholder pressure over executive pay is to be launched later this year as part of government plans aimed at curbing boardroom excess and increasing transparency. In what was described by the government as a world first, the new register will name firms where a fifth of investors have objected to proposed executive annual pay packages. - Observer

Easyjet has been accused of inventing an air traffic control strike to avoid paying out thousands of pounds in compensation for a cancelled flight. The low-cost airline initially blamed the cancellation of its Gatwick to Belfast flight on industrial action, and turned down claims for compensation, however, no air traffic control strikes took place on June 23, the day of the flight. - Sunday Times

Two global cigarette giants are preparing a rescue plan for the tobacco wholesaler Palmer and Harvey (P&H), as it teeters on the brink of collapse. Imperial Brands, the owner of Lambert & Butler, and Japan Tobacco International (JTI), which makes Silk Cut, are understood to have hired restructuring advisers at Deloitte and EY to assemble a rescue package for the business, which supplies 90,000 shops. - Sunday Times

Admiral Taverns, one of Britain's biggest pub chains, is set to be sold to a US investment fund for £220m. Admiral, which owns more than 1,000 pubs across the country, is in advanced sale talks with New York fund Proprium Capital, sources said. The move comes after its owner, the hedge fund Cerberus, launched an auction process earlier in the summer. - Sunday Times

Crisis-hit Provident Financial could be forced to pay more than £200m compensation to customers for mis-selling products said to be similar to payment protection insurance (PPI). Shares in the 137-year-old lender crashed by two-thirds last week - one of the largest single-day falls recorded by a FTSE 100 company - after it admitted a new technology system and an overhaul of its lending business had wiped out profits. - Sunday Times

Peter Crook, the Provident Financial boss, raked in more than £35m during his decade as chief executive of the troubled doorstep lender, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal, a sum likely to anger investors sitting on huge losses following its startling meltdown. Mr Crook leaves behind what was one of the Footsie's best paid chief executive jobs with an annual pay packet 40pc higher than the average salary. He earned £6.3m last year, and £7.5m in 2015, when the business was admitted to the FTSE 100.

Britain's wild bumblebees are being wiped out by neonicotinoid pesticides, say two new studies that found the chemicals attack the insects' nervous systems. One, at Royal Holloway, University of London, found thiamethoxam stopped bumblebee queens starting new colonies. - Sunday Times