Europe

A sharp drop in German industrial production has added to fears that the country’s manufacturing slowdown has extended into 2019 and will weigh on the eurozone economy, the Financial Times reported. Industrial output fell 0.8 per cent in January, Germany’s statistics office said on Monday, in an indication of the threat to exports from weaker global demand and political uncertainty. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the data to show a rise of 0.5 per cent.

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The UK Pensions Regulator has dropped its probe into whether Johnston Press used an insolvency process to dump £300m of pension liabilities into the industry-backed Pension Protection Fund, the Financial Times reported. The regulator opened an investigation in November after Johnston, the publisher of the Scotsman and Yorkshire Post, used a “pre-pack” insolvency to keep the business afloat. Pre-packs are legitimate procedures that allow a business to go into administration, with the assets then sold on to a new buyer, minus liabilities such as pension debt.

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Outsourcing specialist Kier Group has revised its debt up by £50m after an accounting error, alarming investors and raising further concerns over the financial health of the industry, the Financial Times reported. Shares in the contractor, which employs 20,000 people on work ranging from rubbish collection for local authorities to building houses and schools, fell 13 per cent after it said it had revised its net debt as at December 31 up to £180.5m.

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European officials sought to quell fears Greece is going off track just months after its bailout ended, talking up the country’s reform drive even though Athens has yet to fulfill the conditions attached to the disbursement of some 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in debt-relief aid, Bloomberg News reported. The decision to withhold the cash was taken at a meeting of euro-area finance ministers in Brussels on Monday, marking the delay of the first post-bailout payment the country is set to receive as part of a deal struck last year with its European creditors to ease its debt load.

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As the battle between Mike Ashley and Debenhams Plc becomes ever more acrimonious, the department store chain is stepping up its efforts to see off the retail billionaire, a Bloomberg View reported. On Monday, it said it was close to securing about 150 million pounds ($194.9 million) of extra financing. This announcement follows last week’s severe profit warning. When you are fending off an activist investor or a potential predator – and Ashley is both, given that his Sports Direct International Plc has a 30 percent stake – it’s important to have some good news.

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The biggest losers in Airbus SE’s decision to wind down production of its A380 superjumbo may be taxpayers in France, Germany, Spain and the U.K., where governments made a big bet on the plane by lending more than 3.3 billion euros ($3.7 billion) to build it, Bloomberg News reported. Airbus agreed to reimburse the loans, together with interest, but payments were tied to A380 deliveries that began in 2007. The company announced last month that it would halt production of the world’s biggest passenger jet in 2021, putting the countries at risk of not getting back the remaining principal.

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LK Bennett, the luxury fashion chain whose fans include the Duchess of Cambridge and Theresa May, has filed for administration in the latest example of a premium-priced retailer struggling on UK high streets, the Financial Times reported. The company, which was founded by fashion entrepreneur Linda Bennett in 1990 and sold to private equity backers Phoenix Equity Partners and former Jimmy Choo chief executive Robert Bensoussan at a £100m valuation in 2008, has appointed Ernst & Young to handle its insolvency process. The accounting firm will now try to sell the business.

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The European Central Bank’s latest efforts to revive the region’s economy is failing to excite credit investors. Credit-default swaps widened, after initially tightening, as investors focused on the central bank’s economic concerns and the less liberal terms for a new round of cheap bank loans, Bloomberg News reported. That overshadowed early enthusiasm sparked by the bank-funding announcement and the ECB’s pledge to hold interest rates at record lows for longer.

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Residential skyscrapers are rare in Stockholm, a city permeated by five-story, classic stone buildings built at the turn of the last century. That’s now changing, Bloomberg News reported. The most spectacular addition to the skyline is nearing completion: A 125-meter, brutalist structure that could be mistaken for a tower of Lego blocks. Innovationen offers panorama windows and balconies overlooking the red, yellow and orange facades of the Vasastan neighborhood.

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Billionaire Mike Ashley’s push to oust the board of Debenhams Plc came after creditors of the troubled U.K. retailer repeatedly rebuffed his bid to take over immediately as chief executive officer, according to people familiar with the situation. Ashley, whose Sports Direct International Plc is the biggest investor in the department-store chain, has stepped up his campaign by appealing directly to shareholders, Bloomberg News reported. The tycoon late Thursday called for a special vote to unseat all but one of the company’s directors and install himself in a management role.

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