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Friday newspaper round-up: House price bubble, Syria, Vodafone

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Bank of England urged to cap house prices; UN inspectors' report on Syria expected on Monday; Vodafone wins support for Kabel deal.

The Bank of England should take action to cap house price rises at 5% a year in order to prevent a dangerous new property bubble, reckless lending and a build-up in consumer debt, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors [RICS] says. In the latest stark warning about the housing market, Rics – which represents surveyors and estate agents – is calling on the Bank to limit house price inflation to rein in consumers’ and lenders’ expectations and give a clear sign of when the Bank would use its new powers to calm the market. This week, the organisation warned that house prices are rising at their fastest rate since their 2006 peak, The Guardian explains.

UN inspectors will point the finger of blame at the Assad regime for a deadly chemical weapons strike that threatens to drag the US and other Western powers into the Syria conflict. The report, due to be published on Monday, will include a wealth of evidence that a chemical nerve agent was used in the attack, according to sources. Such a finding will throw President Putin on to the back foot as Russia and the US wrangle over how to force President Assad to rid himself of his chemical arsenal, The Times reports.

Vodafone has won a last-minute victory in the fight for Kabel Deutschland after securing 75% of the shares in Germany’s  largest cable television business. The deal was poised on a knife-edge as the British company had until midnight on Wednesday night to gain control of the shares or face the prospect of its £6.6bn offer lapsing. Vodafone had fewer than 20% of the shares earlier in the day. Although it had given itself until next week to gauge whether it had secured enough votes, it revealed last night that it has sealed the deal, according to The Times.

Royal Mail smoothed its path to the stock market with a £200m sweetener for prospective shareholders in what is set to be the biggest privatisation since the early 1990s. The Government said that Royal Mail would pay a maiden dividend of £133m next July, with a view to future payouts of £200m annually. With a market capitalisation expected to be about £3bn, that would put Royal Mail’s dividend yield far ahead of privatised European peers such as Deutsche Post DHL, The Times says.

Britain now has a record number of estate agents, official figures have revealed, underlining fears that the fledgling economic recovery is based on inflating an unsustainable housing bubble. The number of people employed in “real estate activities” increased by 9.9% between March and June (the latest month for which data are available), according to the Office for National Statistics. That was the fastest percentage increase in any sector of the economy; and a rise of 77,000 in the number of estate agents over the past year has taken the total number of people employed in the sector to 562,000, the largest number since records began in 1978, The Guardian says.

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