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Wednesday newspaper round-up: Lloyds, World markets, Debenhams

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Lloyds share sale ‘lost taxpayers £230m’; global markets braced for Federal Reserve announcement; Debenhams demands supplier discount.

George Osborne will today receive a veiled rebuke from the National Audit Office for claiming that he sold a substantial stake in Lloyds Banking Group at a profit for taxpayers when the transaction crystallised a loss of at least £230m. The September sale of a £3.2bn stake was managed effectively and provided value for money, the NAO says in a report published today, but it nevertheless came at a loss for taxpayers – not the “profit” hailed by the Chancellor at the time. – The Times

Oil major BP has pulled off its second mega-deal in as many days after its consortium partners yesterday gave the green light to a $45bn (£28bn) plan to pump gas from the Caspian Sea into Europe. The European Union said that the deal to go ahead with stage two of the Shah Deniz project could provide up to 20% of the continent’s energy needs. Commentators suggested that the project would help to wean Europe off its dependence on Russian gas. – Scotsman

For the second time in three months, world markets are braced for the beginning of the end of history’s greatest monetary experiment. The Federal Reserve’s open market committee meets on Wednesday to decide whether to start to taper the $85bn it is spending each month on buying US bonds. The Fed sparked a day of global volatility in September when it decided against much expectation not to taper – billed in advance as “Septaper”. Now, share prices are falling amid speculation the Fed will launch a “Dectaper” instead. – Financial Times

Debenhams has imposed a 2.5% discount on goods from many of its suppliers, giving companies who produce own-label brands for the department store one day’s notice of the changes. In a letter dated December 16th, Simon Herrick, the Chief Financial Officer, said that the company would pay 2.5% less than agreed into the accounts of suppliers on all outstanding payments. He said that the group would also appropriate a 2.5% contribution on orders that were placed but not yet delivered.- The Times

House of Fraser, one of Britain’s oldest retail chains, is in late-stage talks with a view to being bought by the family owned French department store Galeries Lafayette, it emerged last night. The retailer’s board is understood to be keeping its options open. It may still proceed with a planned flotation on the London stock market early next year, with an expected value of £350m, if the French talks fail. – The Times