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Monday newspaper round-up: CCB, Heathrow, BAE

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China Construction Bank eyes up European counterparts; Boris bores aviation options; BAE’s US operations could need stronger firewall

China Construction Bank (CCB), the second-ranked Chinese bank by assets after Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, could spend as much as $15bn on a deal, according to Wang Hongzhang, the group’s chairman.

“Some of the banks in Europe have been put up for sale,” Mr Wang told the Financial Times in an interview. “Now we are looking for the right choice.”

He said CCB had Rmb100bn ($15.8bn) of capital available to acquire a whole bank or, at a minimum, to buy a stake of 30-50% in a larger entity.


The Mayor has instructed engineering consultants Atkins, accountants Ernst & Young and aviation experts Leigh Fisher to examine a range of scenarios for Britain’s current aviation hub. A spokesman for the Mayor insisted they had “not been asked to look at any options where Heathrow would be completely closed” – something many in the industry believe would be necessary to make the planned new airport, dubbed Boris Island, fly commercially.

Earlier this year, Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways-owner IAG, told The Daily Telegraph: “The only way you’d make it financially successful is say you’re going to build it and, as part of that, you’re going to close Heathrow. If you leave Heathrow open and you build this new airport, we’re going to stay at Heathrow.”


The British defence group BAE Systems would have to strengthen the “firewall” on its US activities to ensure sensitive technology and information did not leak outside the US, said Mario Mancuso, an undersecretary of commerce in the George W. Bush administration who also served in the Pentagon and is a former senior adviser on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, which decides on national security clearance for such deals.

The new company would have to grant operational control of its most sensitive US defence contracts to a proxy board of three Americans, divorcing its operations from its European headquarters, less trusted by Washington, several legal experts said, according to The Financial Times.

The ability to give each state the right to block any future attempt to take over the combined group is considered pivotal to securing approval for the merger of BAE Systems and EADS from the French, German and British governments. But lawyers have warned that while European law allows golden shares to be issued only by defence companies, single market rules forbid them at other businesses.

The combination of BAE and EADS would create a company that was only 50% defence, with the other half being purely civil aviation. Sources close to the deal said the companies hope to persuade Brussels that the combined group should still count as critical for national security, but they admitted that both sides were “fully aware of the problem”, The Telegraph reports.


The £200m takeover of Gala Coral’s casinos by its larger rival, Rank, could be at risk because of the Office of Fair Trading’s decision last month to refer the deal to the Competition Commission. Sources say Rank is considering walking away or at least dropping its offer price substantially, even if it is finally approved, as trading at Gala might worsen during the six months that the Commission is likely to take to scrutinise the deal.

‘It is certainly not a deal that Rank has to do and if they finally get approval then there is no point in paying the same price for an asset that might have changed considerably since it was last looked at,’ said an insider, according to the Financial Mail on Sunday. Business is losing faith in the coalition’s ability to fast-track infrastucture spending, a leading lobby group will say today.


Vince Cable’s commitment to legislate to promote economic growth must include provisions to accelerate projects including important trunk roads, the CBI argues. The body’s survey data shows confidence in the Government’s leadership on infrastructure investment is draining away. A survey of nearly 600 business leaders found that while a year ago a little under half were positive about the state of infrastructure, that number has dropped to barely a third. Worse, nearly three in four bosses believe the state of transport infrastructure will not improve in the next five years, The Times says.


MD Medical Group, a Russian healthcare company, intends to brave the moribund market for initial public offerings and list in London in October, hoping to raise about $150m despite a spate of cancelled initial public offerings. The company is expected to announce this week its intention to sell global depositary receipts representing 30% of the company’s shares in London to fund the expansion of its hospital and clinic network. Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan have been picked to manage the IPO, The Financial Times explains.