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Monday newspaper round-up: Energy companies, retailers, Lloyds

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Energy firms hit out as Ofgem looks into trades; retailers boosted by wet January; Lloyds to set out small company lending plans.

Energy companies have hit out at Ofgem after being ordered to hand over information on every single trade they have made for the past 10 years as part of a new annual competition audit. That amounts to millions of pieces of data and executives have questioned the timing of the regulator’s ‘unusual’ request, which was made just before Christmas. Investigators from Ofgem, assisted by the Office of Fair Trading, have only four months to sift through the data before the audit is published in April. – The Times

The wettest January for 100 years in parts of southern England had shoppers scurrying to the coat rails, helping retailers avoid a washout last month. Retailers discounted throughout January, hitting margins but boosting sales by 8% compared with the same time last year, according to the BDO High Street Sales Tracker. The rise was flattened, however, by weak comparative figures in 2013 when snow disrupted trading. – The Times

The growing problems in the Chinese banking system could spill over into a wider financial crisis, one of the most respected analysts of China’s lenders has warned. Charlene Chu, a former senior analyst at Fitch in Beijing and now the head of Asian research at Autonomous Research, said the rapid expansion of foreign-currency borrowing meant a crisis in China’s financial system was becoming a bigger risk for international banks. – Daily Telegraph

Consumers could be saddled with an extra £1.8bn on their energy bills because of flaws in the government’s plan to install ‘smart’ gas and electricity meters in every home by 2020, suppliers have warned. Three of the Big Six energy suppliers – EDF Energy, ScottishPower and npower – are now calling on ministers to review the £12bn nationwide rollout of the meters, which automatically take gas and electricity usage readings and transmit the information back to suppliers. – Daily Telegraph

Computer giant Hewlett Packard is poised to cut hundreds more jobs in the UK, on top of the 1,000 it axed at the end of last year. The group has plans to cull more than 7,000 roles across Europe during the year – although it has not decided how many of these will land in the UK. Before Christmas it announced that more than 1,000 British roles were due to go. – Daily Mail

Lloyds Banking Group will tomorrow set out plans to boost lending to small companies by more than £1bn this year, as Chief Executive Antonio Horta-Osorio tries to rebuild trust in the state-backed firm. As part of a wide-ranging strategy, he will also pledge that the bank will help more than 80,000 first-time buyers get on the housing ladder – up from last year’s target of 60,000 – and increase the number of women holding senior roles at the group. – The Scotsman

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