Europe

Acadia Healthcare Co. agreed to sell Priory Group, a chain of U.K. mental-health facilities known for treating celebrities for drug and alcohol addiction, to Waterland Private Equity for 1.1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion), Bloomberg News reported. Priory operates about 450 sites across the U.K., specializing in treatment of mental health-care problems as well as conditions ranging from addiction to eating disorders. Acadia, which acquired the British operations in 2016, launched a sale process early this year but temporarily suspended it after the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the world.

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Many bars, restaurants and other businesses in the hospitality sector are predicted to declare insolvency in the second and third quarters of 2021, the Independent reported. The warning came from debt analysis expert StubbsGazette, which believes the wave of insolvencies is inevitable once Government pandemic subsidies are withdrawn or scaled back. Its analysis indicates considerable pain is in store for such businesses in the hospitality industry – some of which have not been able to open since March.

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European Union member states formally backed last week’s trade deal between the U.K. and the EU setting out post-Brexit trade, security and economic ties, the Wall Street Journal reported. The agreement, which will be signed by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the EU’s top two officials on Wednesday, will come into effect provisionally on Jan. 1, pending the European Parliament’s vote on the accord in early 2021. The U.K. Parliament is expected to approve the agreement today.
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Italy’s Senate approved a 38 billion-euro ($47 billion) budget for next year, clearing the final hurdle for the government’s spending plans, Bloomberg News reported. The budget finances measures to help businesses hit by the impact of the coronavirus and lockdown measures, and introduces new measures to finance energy-efficient investments, including an extension of a tax break for green home renovations to 2022.
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Blažek, famous Czech brand for menswear, has filed for insolvency, PragueMorning.cz reported. The company registers more than 150 creditors for a total debt of almost 87 million CZK. As iHNED.cz reports, the company’s founder is considering the entry of a new investor. The company became insolvent from the forced closure of stores during the first and second waves of the epidemic. Like many retailers, Blažek was already struggling with the shift to online shopping even before the pandemic struck this spring.

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Italy’s main banking and industry associations have urged European Union authorities to temporarily ease EU bank rules on loan defaults and credit provisioning to help businesses cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Reuters reported. In a letter to the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen and other senior officials, the groups called for less stringent definitions to be applied to credit defaults to stop temporary liquidity problems forcing firms into bankruptcy.

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A European Central Bank push to make it easier for the region’s chronically unprofitable banks to merge is facing opposition from some national regulators, with one top official warning it could backfire and damage the integration of the financial system, Bloomberg News reported. Proposals by ECB supervisory board chair Andrea Enria to give banks more freedom to source funds in one country and lend them in another could generate costs for taxpayers if lenders run into trouble after the money moves, said Tom Dechaene, a director at Belgium’s central bank.

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Switzerland will return $150 million from blocked Swiss bank accounts by the end of the year to the United States to be given to victims of convicted Ponzi scheme con artist Robert Allen Stanford, the Federal Ministry of Justice said on Monday, Reuters reported. Stanford, a former Texas financier known primarily by his middle name, was convicted of fraud by a Houston jury in 2012 in what prosecutors called a $7.2 billion fraud that lasted two decades and which was eclipsed in size only by the Ponzi scheme run by Bernie Madoff.

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The U.K. and the European Union tomorrow will sign the treaty formalizing the post-Brexit trade agreement the two sides reached on Christmas Eve, Bloomberg News reported. After European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel sign the document, it will be flown by Royal Air Force jet to London where Prime Minister Boris Johnson will do the same. British lawmakers will get only a day to debate the agreement, because it needs to be implemented by the time the Brexit transition period ends at 11 p.m. on Dec. 31.

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Ireland has added some fresh heat into the question of whether countries should raise minimum wages to put their economies on a more stable footing in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, with Prime Minister Micheál Martin saying his government would look at increasing the level by a fifth, the Wall Street Journal reported. Martin said such a move would be aimed at addressing income equality exposed by the pandemic, with many lower-income workers across the world bearing the brunt of lockdowns while better-paid people work from home.

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