Please see below a round up of this weekend’s newspapers: Lewis poised to rejoin M&B battle Bob Ivell, executive chairman of pubs group Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), will no doubt be hoping that for him this Friday will prove to be the exception. Although Mr Lewis abandoned his £941m bid just days before a "put up or shut up" Takeover Panel deadline in October, expectations that he could mount a second offensive have been rising after his Piedmont investment vehicle in December, and again in January, upped its stake in M&B to 25.78%. A six-month cooling-off period barring Mr Lewis from making another tilt ends on Friday, April 13. This time he doesn't necessarily have the element of surprise but the backgammon-loving trader is still keeping the City guessing about his next move. Ivell, who became executive chairman in October, is taking no chances. M&B insiders say he is racing to get as many soldiers to man the barricades as possible. The group is hoping to announce within weeks a new chief executive after being without a permanent head since Adam Fowle's resignation in March 2011. Jeremy Blood, who left in October, took up the role on an interim basis only. Finding generals to fight in Mr Ivell's army has not been an easy task. M&B is believed to have scoured the ranks of other pub companies to find someone brave enough to take up the fight. The two candidates on Mr Ivell's shortlist are now understood to be from outside the sector. "It's not going to be a chief executive from another big pub company coming in to run this pub company," said one source. Some analysts suggest that parachuting in a director from the retail or wider leisure sector as M&B potentially gears up for another fight with its largest shareholder risks weakening M&B's hand. SundayTelegraph The Observer Mail on Sunday Opcapita considers leisure prospects OpCapita, which rescued Game Group from administration and last year bought electrical retailer Comet for £2, is eyeing deals in the consumer goods and leisure sectors. The private investment group will next week announce the appointment of Stephen Alexander, who has 30 years’ experience spanning consumer industries and private equity, as an operating partner. Henry Jackson, chief executive of OpCapita, said the group was interested in consumer goods and leisure, alongside retail: “What Stephen brings us is in-house expertise to better assess new investment opportunities.” He said OpCapita had already spent time looking at deals in consumer goods, and in leisure, specifically pub chains. Opportunities in the food sector could also be interesting. Jackson said OpCapita could make more acquisitions this year. “We will make other investments, perhaps one or two more this year,” he said. The Weekend FT Olympic fans will find coffee 24/7 Starbucks will keep 11 London coffee shops open around the clock for the duration of the Olympic Games. The company has applied to councils for 24-hour licenses on a number of strategically positioned stores. It is part of the company’s plan to win the affection of travellers from emerging markets and to provide a “home away from home” for North Americans. Starbucks will also spend £8m refurbishing 70 stores before the opening ceremony of the Games on 27 July. A spokesman for Whitbread, the owner of Costa Coffee, said: “We will certainly be reviewing our trading hours and will look to extend opening times where appropriate.” The Times (Saturday) Bank hols 'cost Brits £18bn' Axing public holidays could add a whopping £18bn to the nation’s coffers, experts claim. The Centre for Economics and Business Research reckons each bank holiday costs an eye-watering £2bn. Its chief executive Douglas McWilliams said the figures were grim. He added: “We have done some maths on this and about 45% of the economy suffers, the offices, the factories, the building sites where people tend not to go to work on Bank Holiday. “About 15% of the economy — shops, pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafes and visitor attractions — they actually do well out of the Bank Holiday, it’s a mixed thing. “The areas that have lost productivity are about three times bigger than the areas that benefit.” Last year's Royal Wedding and Easter were also blamed for setting back the economy. McWilliams added: “I think the worst time was probably last spring when we had a late Easter then we had the Royal Wedding. In the end we had five bank holidays in six weeks and business seemed to lose momentum there and never seemed to get it back over the year. So I think you can have too many too close together.” The Sun (Monday) Daily Mail (Monday) City’s eyes on Punch’s efforts to sell underperforming pubs Punch Taverns will be pressed by the City this week on the pace of the sell-off of its underperforming outlets amid continuing tough trading for the drinks sector. The spotlight at Punch will also focus on how successful the company has been in reletting outlets that have been returned to the company in the consumer downturn. Ahead of the interim results on Thursday, one analyst said: “I think Punch is on track to meet City consensus profit expectations for the full year. However, that means much interest will be on the continuing progress of the company’s sale of its non-core pubs which are holding back the sales performance. Punch sold over 200 pubs in the first half and the hope is that, despite this difficult climate for the industry, they will say they are on track to meet the target of selling 500 pubs over the full year.” Whiteside will also be quizzed for detail on how many tenants have returned their leases to Punch in the tough trading climate. “The market will want to know the pace of relettings and, as importantly, flesh on the bone of new investment plans in those pubs to improve earnings,” one analyst said. City consensus for Punch’s full-year pre-tax profits is for a further decline to £58.2m from £76m in the previous year and £90m two years ago. The Scotsman Savoy searches world to ease £400m debt Sovereign wealth investors and pension funds from around the world are vying to put money into the Savoy, under a refinancing of part of the hotel’s £400 million-plus debt. Its borrowings, which are mostly held by Lloyds Banking Group, rose sharply on the back of the estimated £220 million restoration completed in October 2010. The part-nationalised bank is now looking to syndicate most of the loans. Although none of the parties involved would comment, it is understood that the refinancing will involve only the £230 million of bank loans that mature at the end of this year. A source close to the process emphasised that it was being led by the company, rather than the bank. The Times (Monday) Retail administrations rise by 15% Shoppers abandoning high street stores for internet rivals helped trigger a 15% rise in retail administrations in the first quarter of 2012, a report has revealed. Accountancy firm Deloitte said a total of 69 retailers collapsed, up from 60 in the same period the previous year, as the squeeze on consumer spending and the growing popularity of online retailers took their toll. Fashion chain Peacocks, video games retailer Game Group, outdoor specialist Blacks Leisure, gift seller Past Times and lingerie firm La Senza all threw in the towel in the period, between them accounting for nearly 10,000 job losses. Lee Manning, a restructuring services partner at Deloitte, said: "The first quarter of 2012 is particularly significant given the high-profile nature of the companies we have seen enter administration." The number of administrations was 64% higher than in the final quarter of 2011, but there is normally a rise in the first three months of the year when trading slows down after the Christmas peak and retailers struggle to pay their quarterly rent bill. The Independent (Monday) Reluctant drinkers need ‘call to action’ Pubs are faring worse the further they are from London, according to Britain’s biggest wholesaler. Charles Wilson, the boss of Booker Group said on Thursday that customers were still spending on big occasions such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, when there is a “call to action”, but are otherwise reluctant to part with cash. Booker, which turned over £3.9bn in the year to 23 March, supplies 55,000 pubs and bars. Wilson added: “Central London is still the strongest market and some of those markets twinned with London, such as Cambridge, Oxford or Cheltenham, are all doing very nicely. With other cities, the further you go, the tougher it gets.” The Times (Friday) Stringfellow feels the pinch The austerity sweeping the country is taking a bitter toll on Britain’s burgeoning sex industry. The king of strip clubs, Peter Stringfellow, has felt the pinch with annual pre-tax profits almost halving at one of his businesses. Latest accounts for Stringfellow Restaurants show pre-tax profit fell to £480,096 for 2011 from £702,811 despite sales rising to £9.4m from £8.7m. The colourful entrepreneur controls a number of ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ in London. Bankers facing lower bonuses may feel less inclined to blow thousands of pounds in an evening at lap dancing clubs such as Stringfellow’s, a favourite haunt of high spenders during the boom years. However the bulk of the fall in the company’s profit appears to have come about because it had a tax rebate and benefited from a string of one off financial credits the previous year. The Daily Mail (Saturday) UK double-dip threat recedes Hops that the UK will avoid a double-dip recession are boosted by fresh data showing an upturn in output across England last month. The Lloyds TSB Regional Purchasing Managers’ Index reports higher levels of business activity in eight of the nine regions in March, with the North-east the exception. Growth was driven mainly by West Midlands manufacturing and London’s service economy. The index, at 55.3 in March com- pared with 54.5 the previous month – a score above 50 indicates growth – reinforces recent positive service and manufacturing purchasing managers surveys. But data from the Office for National Statistics painted a more subdued picture for manufacturing. Increased March business activity was accompanied by expectations of a general improvement in orders. John Maltby, group director at Lloyds TSB Commercial: “This is yet another sign that a double-dip recession may well be avoided. The recent resilience of the UK economy promises a steady rise in business spending and investment over the year ahead, in turn meaning that private sector recruitment will help offset expected falls in government payrolls.” The Daily Express (Monday) Daily Telegraph (Monday) Profits plunge at Alchemy Profits at private equity group Alchemy Partners, the buyout group founded by financier Jon Moulton, slumped 24% to £4.2m new accounts reveal. Alchemy, which backs TCG and Inventive Leisure, also saw turnover fall 11.7% to £10.7m, according to its latest results for the year to 30 June 2011. In the report, Alchemy said that the results were in line with its expectations. Sunday Express DFS founder puts money into fish and chip chain The billionaire founder of the DFS furniture chain is moving into the fish and chip business. Lord Kirkham, who sold DFS to the private equity group Advent for £500m in 2010, said he was backing a new national chain of chip shops, called Whitby’s, and planning to open more than 100 outlets. The first, in Rotherham, has already opened and a second will follow soon in Doncaster. The Guardian (Friday) Rugby boss sells big slice of pizza shares Nigel Wray, the chairman of Saracens rugby club, won’t need to worry about the cost of champagne if his team does well in the Heineken Cup this season. That’s because he is £22.5m richer after selling five million shares at 450p each in Domino’s Pizza where he is a non-executive director. Over the past four years Wray, who has been a director of Domino’s Pizza since 1999, has made nearly £80m selling shares in the company. He still owns Domino’s shares worth nearly £50m, however. The Daily Mail (Saturday) Drought could cause beer and chip prices to rise The drought is threatening supplies of beer and fresh vegetables as farmers face substantial crop losses due to the lack of water. They have warned that yields of barley, potatoes and carrots will be under threat unless there is prolonged rain in the coming months. The dry weather over the winter and spring, which has contributed to the worst drought in the UK since 1976, could also affect other cereal crops such as wheat. Britain's biggest brewer Molson Coors – makers of Carling and Grolsch lagers, Doom Bar ale and Worthingtons bitter – has warned that the dry weather was threatening the supply of high quality malted barley. Sunday Telegraph Petrol prices leave less to spend elsewhere Record petrol prices are taking their toll on shoppers as people divert more and more of their earnings to keeping their car running. Spending excluding petrol rose at a rate well below inflation, with the 0.8% increase the lowest in the two-year history of MasterCard’s SpendingPulse survey. Over the past year shoppers have flocked to discount grocery stores and ditched branded goods in favour of supermarket own-labels to save money. The Times (Saturday) Grim picture of Britain’s high streets Demand from retailers to occupy stores in Britain fell further in the first quarter of 2012, sparking new fears about the health of the country’s high streets. A total of 11% more property agents reported a fall in interest from retailers rather than a rise compared with the final quarter of 2011, according to the latest commercial market survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). The declining demand is despite the number of empty shops on high streets already being at record levels of more than 14%. The survey dampens hopes of a recovery in the retail property market. The collapse into administration of retailers Game and Peacocks have been high-profile examples of the tough conditions on the high street, which have seen hundreds of stores close so far in 2012. A Deloitte report has warned that four out of 10 shops will have to shut in the next five years as customers switch to shopping online. The Daily Telegraph (Saturday) Olympic winners and losers revealed The London Olympics will boost media, retail, pub and property companies when it takes place this summer, but construction and transport sectors will be confronted with challenging trading conditions. That is according to an analysis of stock market announcements so far this year. The Telegraph has found that 80 companies have stated in 2012 that the Olympics could have an impact on their business, with 72 forecasting a positive effect and eight a negative impact. Companies predicting a pick-up in the economy are six retailers, including J Sainsbury and bakery chain Greggs, four transport and travel groups, such as train operator Go-Ahead, and a group of seven leisure companies made up of pubs, restaurants and betting businesses. Shepherd Neame, the Kent-based brewer, said: "The changing role of our pub estate and our proximity to London is well suited to the tourist market and, although it is difficult to determine exactly what impact (the Olympics) will have, they present good opportunities for our business." The Daily Telegraph (Friday) Smoking now unacceptable, says Lansley Smoking should no longer be considered an acceptable part of normal life, the Health Secretary has declared, as a ban on tobacco promotion comes into force. From this weekend all large shops and supermarkets in England must hide cigarettes and tobacco products from public view. "It's about supporting smokers who want to give up," Andrew Lansley said yesterday, adding: "The culture is about moving to a place where tobacco and smoking isn't part of normal life: people don't encounter it normally, they don't see it in their big supermarkets, they don't see people smoking in public places, they don't see tobacco vending machines," he added. "We are going to continue to try to act against smoking for the simple reason that most smokers want to quit and it is the biggest avoidable cause of early mortality." The Independent (Saturday) Bill's Produce mooted for Cardiff Multi-millionaire Richard Caring, who owns The Ivy in London’s West End, is close to sealing a deal to open the latest branch of his shop-come-restaurant hybrid in the Welsh capital. Under the plans, Bill’s Produce – a mix of an indoor fruit and vegetable market and fashionable cafe – will span more than 3,000sqft and take over 12 units in the city centre’s Wyndham Arcade. It’s hoped the £500,000 investment will boost footfall to the historic arcade and create dozens of jobs. South Wales Echo MP buys Peasant Poet’s pub Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP for Huddersfield, and the John Clare Trust of which he is the chair, have bought the Exeter Arms in Helpston in Cambridgeshire – where the peasant poet was laid out before his burial – and plan to turn it into an educational centre. The trust already owns Clare Cottage in the village, where John Clare was born in 1793, to two illiterate farm labourers, and where he spent much of his life. "This pub will be the base for every child's right to the English countryside," Sheerman said. It is currently shut, and will be so for at least two more months. Whether it functions as a pub when it reopens remains uncertain. "We can use it only for purposes in line with our aims as an educational trust," Sheerman added. The trust is about to begin an extensive consultation with the villagers over the future of the pub. "It might be that we can get something like a Jamie Oliver Fifteen style restaurant going, getting young people to learn the skills of the leisure trade." The Independent (Saturday) UK will avoid double dip by 0.1% The UK economy has avoided a double-dip recession by the narrowest of margins, a leading thinktank predicted after a manufacturing slump underscored the fragile nature of Britain's recovery. The economy grew just 0.1% in the first quarter of this year, according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). If correct, its estimate would mean that after a drop in GDP at the end of last year, the UK skirted a recession, which is technically two consecutive quarters of contraction. The thinktank's forecast followed official data revealing a surprise fall in factory output in February. Contrasting with the upbeat tone of recent business surveys, manufacturers suffered a 1% drop in production, the sharpest fall since April last year when an extra royal wedding bank holiday and the Japanese tsunami disrupted business. The Guardian (Friday) What’s red, blue and white and all over? After 19 years, Tesco has canned its 'Value' range. The firm has decided to discontinue his bold, blue-and-white-striped packaging in favour of a new range, christened "Everyday Value". But Rodney Fitch, retail design expert and founder of the Fitch design company, is not convinced by the new design. "I don't think the packaging expresses the brand proposition," Fitch says. "It hasn't the 'shelf-appeal' or the consistency to give it a single message across those 550 product lines or 50,000sq ft. It's too understated." Angela Wright, colour psychologist and founder of a consultancy that has advised major retailers, is also underwhelmed by Everyday Value. "Its colours are all over the place; there's no recognisable message." The Independent (Friday) Black beer's future looks dark In a little-noticed footnote to the 2012 budget, George Osborne decided to repeal a curious tax relief which has for 80 years exempted from excise duty a special kind of alcoholic beverage made by just one company: Huddersfield's Continental Wine and Food (CWF). The result is that a 68cl bottle of Mather's Black Beer will soon almost double in price to £4 – a leap CWF fears will be too much for its loyal customers, many of whom it says are pensioners leading frugal lives in Yorkshire and surrounding areas. "It's 50/50 whether we'll still be producing Black Beer in a year's time," said Vicky Lee, CWF's group marketing and trading controller. Ever since 1931, Mather's Black Beer has not been taxed like ordinary beers and lagers, despite having an alcoholic volume of 8.5%. The logic behind this historical quirk was twofold – first, as HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) notes, black beer is "taken" (not drunk) "for its perceived medical and nutritional benefits", notably its high vitamin C content. Second, it is not sipped neat, but diluted with lemonade or milk. When mixed with the former it becomes "Sheffield Stout" and tastes like a malty cross between dandelion and burdock and bitter shandy, with a faint caramel kick. It can be found behind the bar in almost every Yorkshire pub, usually nestled beside a dusty bottle of Stone's Green Ginger Wine. HMRC says repealing the tax relief "supports the government's objective to simplify the tax system and is part of a package of measures which will repeal reliefs that are no longer necessary, have not achieved their policy rationale or are distortative". The Guardian (Friday) Diageo targets Africa as its growth market British drinks giant Diageo expects its annual growth in Africa to accelerate beyond the current 15%, helped by its zero-duty Senator keg beer in Kenya and a strong rise in Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff spirit sales. Africa is Diageo's biggest emerging market region and vies with Latin America to be its fastest-growing, as economic growth accelerates in much of the continent and with its population of one billion set to double by 2050. "We are seeing more people with more money to spend, and with these drivers of growth in place we expect overall growth to accelerate," Diageo's Africa President Nick Blazquez told Reuters in an interview on Thursday. The Guardian (Friday) The Daily Telegraph (Friday) Retirement is gateway to business start-ups The number of pensioners starting up their own business jumped by 44% last year, after tight household budgets saw the over-65s seek out new income streams. The figures, from the Office of National Statistics, record that 332,000 Britons aged over 65 founded businesses in the past 12 months. They also show that more than half of pensioners still in employment started their own business. The findings are in spite of evidence that banks are unlikely to lend over-65s start-up funds. The Parliamentary Small Business Group Entrepreneurship Inquiry this month heard that older entrepreneurs were disproportionately affected by the reluctance of banks to lend. Of those over 65 starting up their own business, 62% said access to finance was a problem, compared with 41% of those aged between 18 and 30, the inquiry was told. The Independent (Saturday)