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Sunday newspaper round-up: Twitter, M&S, TalkTalk

Elon Musk has begun discussions with possible partners for a bid on Twitter after the iconic social media outfit put in place a so-called ‘poison pill’ in an attempt to thwart a mooted £33bn takeover. That stratagem was preceded by Twitter’s rejection of an offer from Musk last Friday worth $54.20 a share. The pill would be activated should Musk take his own stake over the 15% threshold. – Sunday Times

In a blow to Marks & Spencer, BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, and hedge fund Marshall Wace, disclosed a combined £35m short position against the retailer’s stock just weeks after it announced that the head of its food unit, Stuart Machin, would take over at the helm, alongside Katie Bickerstaffe. They were the first bets disclosed since December and together with recent share price falls revealed that the City was unconvinced about its prospects under new management. For Richard Hyman, a partner retail consultancy TPC, M&S had erred by focusing so much on food instead and not enough on food, which had higher margins. – Financial Mail on Sunday

Bankers believe that Vodafone is the frontrunner to come away with TalkTalk, the mobile firm that has put itself up for sale. Vodafone and Sky have also been reported as possible buyers of the firm, whose owners and managers are said to be pursuing a £3bn transaction price. Analysts at Enders however believe that price tag will not be reached without a bidding war. Vodafone however could bolster its broadband unit through a purchase and it would stand a better chance of obtaining the prerequisite green light from competition authorities. – The Financial Mail on Sunday

THG has suffered another blow with the exit of the founder of one of its leading beauty businesses with brands complaining of late payments. Alexia Inge, co-founder of Cult Beauty, which sold skincare, haircare and cosmetics brands, wrote to staff this month to announce her departure. THG acquired Cult Beauty for £275m in 2021. It joined THG’s other brands, such as Lookfantastic and Myprotein. Yet both current and former employees told The Sunday Times that the company’s culture had worsened since the purchase. One employee added that brands were not being paid as they used to be. The owner of a beauty brand said: “Cult Beauty used to be great at paying on time [60 days], but ever since the THG acquisition, we haven’t been paid once.” – The Sunday Times

Ministers have bowed to pressure from the likes of Google and Facebook and will soften a planned clampdown on the acquisition of technology companies under the Digital Markets Units due to concern that it might stifle investment in UK startups, Whitehall sources say. The unit had been set up under the Competition and Markets Authority in order to rein in Silicon Valley giants by allowing it greater leeway to intervene in takeovers by large tech firms with “strategic market status”. – Sunday Telegraph

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