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Sunday newspaper round-up: TTIP, Lloyds, Ted Baker

German finance minister, Christian Lindner, is calling for a fresh push in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine to put in place a trade deal between the European Union and the US. The last attempt, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), was put to rest in 2016, during the Trump administration. In remarks made to Handelsblatt, Lindner said the conflict had made clear how important it is to foster free trade with partners who share the same values. He was speaking ahead of a planned visit to a NATO summit by US President Joe Biden later in March. – Sunday Telegraph
Lloyds Banking Group has a secret plan to break out of high street banking and bolster sales of its services to well-heeled, middle -class customers. It will see so-called ‘mass affluent’ customers, who are defined as those earning more than £75,000 per year, at the heart of its strategy. According to an internal memo, the lender will combine its private banking and customer relationship units in July, so that they co-ordinate the sale of investment products together with insurance and other services. Already in February, Lloyds CEO Charlie Nunn had outlined a push to bring in an additional £1.5bn in revenues by 2026, split evenly between lending income and fees from products such as insurance. – Financial Mail on Sunday

Investors have raised the alarm following the tragic death of Ted Baker chairman John Barton, which they fear may have left the fashion retailer in a weakened state to fend off US private equity suitor Sycamore Partners. Typically, one of a company chairman’s duties is to scrutinise the merits of a takeover bid. The current chair Helena Feltham’s previous post was that of senior independent director. Company chief Rachel Osborne on the other hand was only two years into the role while finance director, Marc Dench, had come onboard earlier in March. The outfit had also faced an accounting scandal and store closures as a result of the pandemic. – The Financial Mail on Sunday

ITM Power, the green hydrogen group backed by Lord Bamford and Peter Hargreaves, will create 1,100 jobs in the North of England over the next two years. According to the company’s boss, once a second factory in Sheffield was up and running, in 2023, the company would more than triple its workforce, from 400 at present. Helping to boost the shares was the European Union’s recent launch of a major new funding for clean energies and the war in Ukraine, which had added further impetus to the need for energy security. Lord Bamford owned a 8.0% stake in the company and Hargreaves Lansdown co-founder, Peter Hargreaves, another 4.5%. – Financial Mail on Sunday

Potential acquirers of Boots will begin to meet with the chemists’ staff during the coming week as Walgreen’s forges ahead with its plan to divest – despite volatile market conditions. US private equity outfits Apollo and Sycamore Partners are among the suitors that have submitted non-binding takeover offers for the high street chain. There had been doubts in recent weeks regarding whether the sale process would go ahead after corporate debt markets seized up in the wake of the Ukraine invasion and after a consortium of Bain Capital and CVC Capital decided against submitting a bid. Nonetheless, a source close to that consortium had suggested that it might yet be interested if Walgreens was willing to contemplate a lower bid. There was skepticism that Sycamore, which was also circling Ted Baker, would make a firm offer for the chemist. – Sunday Times

Another referendum on Scottish independence is “unlikely” to be held within the preferred time range for Nicola Sturgeon, a former senior member of both the Scottish government’s staff and the SNP said. According to Kevin Pringle, a vote on leaving the UK before the end of 202 might undermine the SNP’s goal of boosting support. – Scotsman on Sunday

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