Please see below a round up of this weekend’s newspapers: Compass’s £500m shares spree Compass, the world’s largest contract caterer, will reveal plans this week to return £500m to shareholders by buying back shares. Analysts expect the company to announce the move alongside its annual results, when profits are forecast to exceed £1bn. Compass has a strong balance sheet and is likely to use it to return cash to investors as well as fund fresh acquisitions. Buybacks are becoming increasingly common among large groups with plenty of cash on their balance sheets, Glaxo Smith Kline and Virgin Media among them. Over the past year, Compass has spent more than £400m snapping up smaller rivals. This has allowed it to diversify into security, cleaning and other services. According to analysts at Credit Suisse, Compass is more than capable of returning cash to shareholders and adhering to its acquisition strategy. It estimates that between now and 2013, the group will have up to £2.4bn of firepower. Barclays forecasts that the group’s pre-tax profits for 2011 will rise 10.5% from £922m to a shade over £1bn. It estimates that sales will be up nearly 9% to £15.7bn. Sunday Times Ivell takes charge of M&B’s CEO search Bob Ivell has approached a dozen people in his bid to appoint a chief executive and new non-executives to Mitchells & Butlers ahead of Tuesday’s full-year results, which are expected to show a fall in sales and earnings. Ivell, now executive chairman of the pubs group, is personally leading what has been described as a “difficult search” for new candidates. The resignation of the interim chief executive, Jeremy Blood, three weeks ago marked the ninth change of either chief executive or chairman at M&B in the last four years. While analysts have called for more managerial stability, one potential candidate said taking on the M&B role under the current shareholder structure would risk causing personal reputational damage. He added that billionaire currency trader Joe Lewis’ 22.8% shareholding and recent rejection of 230p-per-share offer is causing an “intractable problem” at M&B. The Sunday Telegraph Hotel Chocolat fattens up profits A surge in sales of “Glorious Great Britain” chocolate postcards and pink champagne truffles has spurred Hotel Chocolat to a 25% jump in profits. The fast-growing chain, which has 60 stores around the country, increased sales 12% to £59.9m in the 12 months to the end of June. Pre-tax profits were £2.6m. Angus Thirlwell, co-founder and chief executive, said consumers wanted an affordable treat as the economic environment worsened. “We detect a flight to quality. Anything that’s insubstantial or not well-made is getting sidelined by the public.” Thirlwell added that the high street gloom had made it easier for Hotel Chocolat to secure prime sites. The group opened in 12 new locations last year and is rolling out another 10, including New York, Edinburgh and Covent Garden in central London. Mike Doyle, formerly of Premier Foods and Marks & Spencer, has joined the company as finance director. Sunday Times Virgin plans to shake up UK banking Virgin Money boss Jayne-Anne Gadhia has vowed to shake up British banking following the company’s £1bn acquisition of Northern Rock. As well as an assault on the current account and mortgage markets, Gadhia is promising a move into business banking. Virgin is being willed on by consumer and business groups, as well as the UK government, which is committed to increasing competition as part of sweeping bank reforms. Gadhia and her backer Sir Richard Branson intend to use Virgin’s established branding and focus on customer service to emulate what Branson did in the airline industry, where he made the former national carriers look old-fashioned and out of touch with their clients. Gadhia says Branson’s iconic status in the business community will be used to market Virgin’s business banking offering, which she says is “on the horizon”. The Scotsman Business leaders’ confidence collapses Nearly three-quarters of senior business leaders questioned in a CBI survey published on Sunday (20 November) said their view of the economic outlook had darkened since August. While only 30% believed their own company’s prospects had deteriorated, 59% are reviewing their business strategies and, ominously, 38% are “changing workforce plans”. The eurozone crisis represented the biggest factor likely to affect the British economy next year, with fears of a second banking crisis close behind. But despite plummeting confidence, 82% of those polled still backed the government’s deficit reduction strategy. Mail on Sunday The Sunday Telegraph Cineworld negotiates 30 sites Cineworld is negotiating to open 30 new locations across the UK within the next five years. The listed cinema group opened on Friday in Leigh, near Manchester. Further sites confirmed include Wembley, Aldershot and Trowbridge. The business is also looking for more sites for The Screening Rooms. Independent on Sunday Tower 42 about to fall into new hands Nathan Kirsh, the South African property investor, is set to become the new owner of Tower 42, the tallest occupied skyscraper in the City of London, and home to Rhodes Twenty Four restaurant. The 607ft building, which is jointly owned by LaSalle Investment Management, Blackrock’s UK property fund and Hermes Real Estate, was put up for sale in September with a price tag of about £290m. Kirsch is understood to have offered £285m, which would equate to a yield of 6.9% on the 472,000sq ft property based on annual rental income of £20m. Other bidders are thought to have included Exemplar Properties, the London-focused developer, and private equity group Doughty Hanson. If the deal goes ahead, it could kick-start a series of commercial property sales, such as that of the HSBC tower in Canary Wharf, which have been pulled or delayed since the start of the year. FT Weekend Unwelcome reverse for Welcome Break Welcome Break expects non-fuel sales to grow only ‘modestly’ thanks to limited traffic growth on the motorway network and pressure on margins and costs from inflation. The UK’s second-largest motorway service chain, with 28 sites, fell into the red despite reporting revenues up 9% to £598m in the year to January 25 due to substantial operating costs, write-downs and interest payments. Pre-tax losses hit £1.9m compared with a profit of £8.4m the previous year. Mail on Sunday Government to underwrite new-build home loans David Cameron is poised to announce a flagship scheme to underwrite hundreds of millions of pounds of mortgages for new-build homes. The mortgage indemnity scheme will be launched on Monday (21 November) by the Prime Minister as the centrepiece of a new housing review. The government will underwrite a small percentage of each new loan on newly-built property, thus shifting the loan-to-value ratio so the borrower needs a smaller deposit. This would lead to more demand and provide a boost to the construction industry in terms of sales and employment. FT Weekend Cameron to tackle the bogus sickie This week will see Prime Minister David Cameron announce a root and branch review of sickness absence. This is more important to the UK’s business sector than it may first appear. Alongside worries over the restrictions of employment law, businesses will often rank sickness absence as one of their key concerns and a drain on resources. For small and medium-sized businesses in particular, long periods of time off for staff can be difficult to manage. The CBI’s latest review of the issue estimates that there are 30.4 million days of non-genuine sickness absence a year, costing the economy £2.7bn. The government wants to tackles this via two routes. The first is by giving employers an independent appeals process, so they can test whether sick notes have been granted by GPs for the right reasons. The second is by overhauling the employment support allowance to move employee eligibility assessment forward by 13 weeks and thus more quickly encourage people who are fit to return to work to do so. The Sunday Telegraph Thames estuary airport plans gain support Plans for a new airport in the Thames estuary have won political backing from senior figures close to David Cameron. Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister’s strategy chief, and Chancellor George Osborne are said to have swung behind the scheme as the best way of tackling a crisis in airport capacity. London Mayor Boris Johnson is adamant that the project, including new rail links and a bridge over the Thames, would reinvigorate the economy. In a speech tomorrow (Monday 21 November) he will warn that failure to build his proposed airport would threaten business travel and tourism worth £62bn a year to Britain. Airports in the south east are expected to reach full capacity by 2030. Mail on Sunday The Sunday Times Restaurant next for shoe queen Tamara? Jimmy Choo co-founder Tamara Mellon strutted away from the shoe empire last week amid speculation as to what she will do next. Brand experts think Mellon has sufficient clout to launch more than another clothing line, suggesting she could even put her surname to an upmarket hotel or restaurant. With a personal fortune of £150m, finding the cash to finance her new venture is unlikely to be a problem. The entrepreneur has revealed her inbox has been flooded with e-mails from people who want to work with her since her resignation became public knowledge. Beyond that, Mellon is keeping schtum, because she officially remains a Choo employee until the end of the year. The Observer Fruit machines fill the void Slot machines are proliferating across Britain, as the economic slowdown forces the closure of shops and leisure outlets. The first major study of where fruit machines are located, conducted by the National Centre of Social Research, has revealed that areas with high unemployment and those dominated by the lowest socio-economic groups tend to have the most. These areas include the Welsh valleys, Yorkshire towns and urban areas near Glasgow. The same is true of places where people are predominantly aged either between 16 and 34 or over 75, particularly seaside towns such as Brighton and Bournemouth. But relatively affluent towns, such as Altrincham, as well as the ‘new towns’ of Milton Keynes and Peterborough are also becoming ‘high-density machine zones’, with one gaming machine for every hectare (an area the size of a rugby pitch). The Observer