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Sunday newspaper round-up: Biden, Beer, Royal Mail

The White House clarified comments from Joe Biden who earlier had called for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ouster. In a speech delivered in Poland, Biden said: “”For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” A spokesman for the White soon after stated that US leader was not talking about ‘regime change’. “The president’s point was that Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbours or the region,” the spokesman explained. – The Sunday Times
Beer is set to become more expensive by Christmas as the war in Ukraine drives the cost of barley higher, possibly by 25.0-30.0%, leading brewer Adnams warned. Hence the company’s plans to raise prices for its customers later in 2022. Typically, Ukraine accounts for roughly one fifth of the world’s exports of barley. Adnams sources its barley from the UK but even so the war is pushing costs higher across supply chains. And while many brewers have sufficient stocks of barley, they will be purchasing more later in the year. It’s when those purchases are made that prices will start rising, especially in the third and fourth quarter. – Sunday Telegraph

Short-sellers including Marshall Wace, Blackrock, Millenium Capital and Man Group have amassed a £115m bet against Royal Mail, a short interest equivalent to 3.4% of the company’s shares. Their thinking is that some of the other investments of Daniel Kretinsky, the Czech billionaire who owns a 20% stake in Royal Mail, will come under pressure from the war in Ukraine, due to links with Gazprom. Kretinsky’s EP Infrastructure holds a large stake in Eustream, which pipes Russian gas to central and eastern Europe. Sources at EPIF however have played down such risks, arguing that gas transmission accounts for just a third of EPIF’s profits. Kretinsky also has a 10.0% stake in Sainsbury’s. There had also been speculation that Kretinsky might attempt a buyout of Royal Mail or to force it to spin-off its parcel business GLS. – Financial Mail on Sunday

Shares of Rolls Royce may be wanted at the market open on Monday following a blog post from financial website Betaville according to which the engineer will soon be involved in a “significant corporate transaction” with an unidentified suitor. Previous occasions on which Rolls has been the subject of takeover chatter are after the company’s 2020 cash call and in the wake of a string of profit warnings in 2015. Analysts at Jefferies however believe that the government’s golden share would deter the majority of potential bidders. And for one of those, BAE Systems, a bid for Rolls would mark a huge change in strategy. – Financial Mail on Sunday

Grocery app Gorillas is looking to raise $500m of fresh capital at a valuation of over $5.0bn (£4.0bn). JP Morgan is advising on the fund raising which comes after it obtained another $1.0bn in October at a valuation of $3.1bn. It is thought that Gorilla’s had originally planned to raise as much as $1.0bn but later scaled back its ambitions. There were also signs that growth in rapid delivery could be slowing and the sector is facing higher input costs such as for food, property and labour. The loss-making rapid-delivery service is backed by German tech outfit Delivery Hero and China’s Tencent. In October it struck a partnership with Tesco. – The Sunday Times

Stagecoach chairman Raymond O’Toole has been accused of a conflict of interest due to his links to DWS, the German investment giant which has tabled a bid for the group. O’Toole and the remainder of the board have backed the buyout but the chairman has collected in excess of £360,000 in pay from Yorkshire Water, one of whose owners is DWS. The Stagecoach board had previously backed another bid from rival National Express. – Financial Mail on Sunday

President Joe Biden is set to unveil a tax targeting US billionaires on Monday, the Washington Post reports, saying that it would be “a tax on the richest 700 Americans for the first time”. The levy would set a 20.0% minimum tax rate for all households in America worth more than $100.0m. Nevertheless, the measure to be proposed might encounter opposition from conservative Democrats, such as West Virginia senator Joe Manchin and Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema. The move comes ahead of widely expected losses at November’s midterm elections. – Guardian

The Treasury stands to enjoy an extra windfall of nearly £50.5bn as revenues from from the Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax soar over the coming five years. However, tens of thousands of middle-class families will be hit by the Chancellor’s wealth taxes. Critics say that Rishi Sunak’s stated aim of plugging the black hole from Covid fails to take into account the cost of living so that most families will be left nursing significantly higher expenses. He also come under fire for failing to do anything to aid the poorest households, who are struggling with soaring costs, including huge jumps in energy bills. – The Financial Mail on Sunday

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