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Thursday newspaper round-up: BP, BAE Systems, BSkyB…

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21/02/2013
US court reduces BP oil spill fine; BAE Systems warns 3,500 jobs are at risk; BSkyB and Disney join forces for new channel.

BP has shaved $3.4bn off the maximum fine for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. A court order, handed down by a judge in New Orleans, means BP will no longer be liable for a maximum of $21bn in fines at next week’s civil trial – after a judge ruled the oil company would not have to pay for 810,000 barrels of oil collected at the source of the broken well. The oil company had been facing up to $21bn in fines in the civil case, based on the amount of oil that gushed into the Gulf following the fatal blowout of its well. [The Guardian]

British defence giant BAE Systems has warned it will be forced to cut 3,500 jobs in the US if the threat of Pentagon spending cuts becomes reality. The company said it had warned staff within its US ship repair business of the possible cuts after the US Navy signalled its ‘intent to cancel’ a number of ship maintenance requirements, should unresolved budget negotiations between Congress and the White House drive spending down. BAE, which employs around 38,000 people across the US and 5,000 in ship repair, said that cancellation of the maintenance plans would ‘significantly impact’ its ship repair operations in Norfolk, Virginia; San Diego, California; Mayport, Florida; and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. [The Telegraph]

BSkyB has shown it still has a stranglehold over the best new movies on pay-TV as it signed a major rights deal with Disney, dealing a blow to online movie-streaming rivals NetFlix and Amazon’s LoveFilm. Disney becomes the fourth of the Big Six Hollywood studios to renew with Sky, after Warner Bros, NBC Universal and Sony. The deal covers what is known as the first Pay-TV window, an exclusive period of about a year, after movies such as its latest release Wreck-It Ralph, pictured, have been shown in cinemas. It also includes online platforms such as mobile service Sky Go and Sky’s cut-price streaming website Now TV. [The Independent]

The energy company EDF has launched a civil claim for £5m in damages against a group of activists who shut down one of its gas-fired power stations in a week-long protest last year. A group of 21 protesters from the campaign group No Dash for Gas climbed two chimneys at EDF’s West Burton plant in Nottinghamshire last October in a demonstration over Government plans to build 20 gas-fired power stations. The group pleaded guilty to aggravated trespass at Mansfield Magistrates Court yesterday for their part in the protest, and are awaiting sentencing. [The Independent]

The Queen’s favourite carpet maker, Axminster, is to go into administration as royal patronage proves insufficient to fend off the recession. Almost 450 jobs are at risk at the Devon-based company, whose designs are sold in John Lewis and Carpetright, as well as adorn the floors of Windsor Castle and Clarence House. Founded in 1755 and granted a five-year royal warrant in January 2012, the company became the latest slice of British business heritage to hover on the brink of collapse last night. Duff & Phelps are set to be appointed as joint administrators and the company will continue to trade while “all potential rescue/restructuring options” are explored [The Times]

 

With roots in the East End rag trade stretching back a century and the attraction of brand ambassadors including Serge Gainsbourg, Lee Cooper jeans were once a must-have for aspiring rock stars. But the fashion label yesterday fell into American hands through a $72m transatlantic takeover. Sun European Partners, the private equity owner of Lee Cooper, has agreed to sell the business to Iconix, a US company with a collection of brands including Umbro, Massimo and Ed Hardy. [The Times]

The 4G auction has ended in a humiliation for George Osborne, pulling in £1.2bn less than expected for the Treasury. But it is a boon for smartphone users, leaving mobile networks with the spare change to finance a rapid roll-out of superfast wireless internet. The biggest ever sale of British airwaves raised £2.34bn for the public purse, less than the £3.5bn the chancellor was counting on to keep government borrowing in check, and below the £4bn analysts had estimated based on prices fetched in recent European 4G auctions.[The Guardian]

The US Congress is preparing new Iran sanctions legislation that would target the European Central Bank‘s system for settling cross-border bank payments. The proposed bill is part of a package of measures designed to pressure the ECB to do more to prevent Iranian companies and banks from using the Target2 payments system to conduct transactions involving euros. The legislation, which could be introduced next week, is aimed at closing loopholes to earlier financial sanctions which the US Congress has imposed on Iran over the past 18 months to slow its nuclear programme. [Financial Times]

Estate agent Countrywide is set to trump Crest Nicholson’s recent £550 million float after unveiling plans to join the FTSE 250. The company, which was listed for 21 years before being taken private at the top of the market in 2007, is hoping a fragile housing market recovery will be enough to tempt investors amid growing demand for new issues. It plans to raise £200m by selling shares in a new holding company controlling the business, and will use the money to repay some debt and grow the business, including acquisitions. [The Scotsman]

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