UK chancellor confirms lower expectations for economic growth

The UK economy is now expected to contract by 0.1% in 2012 and then grow by 1.2% in 2013, the Office for Budget Responsibility announced today.

This is a significant downgrade from predictions made by the OBR in March, when it expected the economy to grow by 0.8% this year and 2% next year.

In a report published to coincide with Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement in the House of Commons, the OBR also revised upward its forecasts for public sector borrowing over the next five years.

According to the OBR, tax revenues will be lower because of the weaker outlook for the economy. As a result, the government is no longer likely to achieve its target of reducing public sector net debt by 2015-16.

The chancellor has now pushed back the target by a year, saying that debt will begin to fall as a proportion of national income by 2016-17. Osborne is also extending austerity measures by another year to 2018 in order to close the budget deficit, although he claimed that such measures would be implemented “fairly” with savings made from bureaucracy and a greater contribution from the richest households and those on benefits.

He pointed out that people on out-of-work benefits had seen their incomes rise at twice the rate of working people, and said that over the next three years benefits such as jobseekers allowance and child benefit will increase by just 1% per year. There will also be a further cut in tax relief on pension contributions, with the the amount that can be paid into a pension each year with tax relief reduced by GBP10,000 to GBP40,000 and the lifetime allowance cut to GBP1.25m from GBP1.5m from 2014-15.

Among other measures announced in the Autumn Statement, the chancellor said that he would increase efforts to collect tax from multinational companies operating in the UK, cut corporation tax to 21% from April 2014, cancel the planned fuel duty rise and lift the personal allowance – the amount that people can earn before paying income tax – by more than planned to reach GBP9,440 from April next year.

Czech government in talks to sell flag carrier Ceske Aerolinie

The Czech government is holding early-stage discussions with Korean Air Lines Co LtdĀ (KRX:003490) and Qatar Airways about the sale of troubled flag carrier Ceske Aerolinie AS, known as Czech Airlines (CSA), prime minister Petr Necas said today.

The cabinet will decide whether to sell CSA as early as April 2013 after considering possible bids from the two airlines, which are expected by the end of January, he said.

The privatisation process started in 2009 after the carrier posted severe losses from an unsuccessful expansion plan. Then, the only suitor, Czech charter airline Travel Service AS, dropped its bid as it was unwilling to buy CSA without getting a capital injection from the government.

CSA, which is owned by the operator of the Prague airport Czech Aeroholding AS, posted a loss of CZK241m (USD12.5m/EUR9.6m) in 2011. Back in September, the European Commission approved a EUR100m (USD130.7m) state aid for the carrier.

Philip Green considers selling a stake in retailer Topshop — report

UK businessman Philip Green is reportedly negotiating the sale of a non-controlling stake in local clothing retailers Topshop and Topman with a US buyout firm, Reuters reported, citing a source in the know.

On Tuesday, Sky News reported that US private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners LP was holding discussions with a view to buying into the high street chains in a transaction valuing the two businesses at nearly GBP1bn (USD1.6bn/EUR1.23bn). Leonard Green is already in the retail business through US clothing chain J Crew, which it owns jointly with larger peer TPG Capital LP.

The targeted 25% stake would be ring-fenced from the businessman’s Arcadia Group Limited, which also owns high street clothing retailers Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Wallis and BHS.

The parties are expected to unveil discussions about the deal tomorrow, according to the insider.

When contacted by Reuters, Philip Green did not wish to comment, while Leonard Green was not available for comment.

Arcadia recorded GBP2.68bn in sales from its 2,500 domestic stores and 615 franchised units in 39 countries in its fiscal year to 25 August.

Topshop Ltd operates stores that sell clothing and fashion products for women. Topman is the stand-alone fashion business counterpart of Topshop that caters exclusively to men’s clothing.

Blackstone to acquire Intertrust from Dutch sponsor Waterland

US buyout firm The Blackstone Group LP (NYSE:BX) has entered into an agreement to acquire trust and corporate services provider Intertrust Group Holding SA from Dutch investor Waterland Private Equity Investments BV, the target said on its website.

Intertrust did not unveil the value of the transaction, but Dutch daily Het Financieele Dagblad reported it may be around EUR675m (USD883m). The sum is equal to nine times Intertrust’s gross operating profit of EUR75m.

The transaction is scheduled for completion in the coming months once the parties secure the needed regulatory nods.

Intertrust said it expects to receive many opportunities to extend its service offering. The company’s head office is located in Geneva, Switzerland, while its largest operational office is in the Netherlands.

HSBC agrees to sell stake in Chinese insurer Ping An to Thailand’s Charoen in $9.4bn deal

British banking and financial services group HSBC Holdings Plc (LON:HSBA) on Wednesday announced a HKD72.74bn (USD9.4bn/EUR7.2bn) agreement for the sale of its 15.57% in Chinese insurer Ping An Insurance (Group) Company of China Ltd (HKG:2318).

The buyer is Thai diversified group Charoen Pokphand Group Company Limited (CP Group) which is carrying out the deal through indirectly fully-owned units All Gain Trading Limited, Bloom Fortune Group Limited, Business Fortune Holdings Limited and Easy Boom Developments Limited.

Under the terms of the transaction, HSBC will transfer a first tranche of 256.7m Ping An shares, or 20.8% of the shares, to the buyers on 7 December for HKD59.00 apiece in cash, while the rest of the stock will be delivered at the same price per share after securing the approval of China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) in January 2013, the vendor said.

HSBC said the sale is part of its strategy of delivering long-term value to shareholders. It expects the disposal to boost its core Tire 1 capital ratio by some 0.5% and the total capital ratio by around 1% based on ratios on 30 September 2012. The vendor plans to use the funds from the divestment to support the group’s overall strategy, HSBC said.

The buyer will finance the deal with cash and a debt facility from the China Development Bank Corporation (CDB).

US sponsor Sun Capital acquires Polycom’s enterprise wireless communications unit

US private equity group Sun Capital Partners Inc said one of its affiliates had wrapped up the USD110m (EUR84m) purchase of US communications equipment provider Polycom Inc’s (NASDAQ:PLCM) enterprise wireless communications unit.

The acquired business operates under the brands SpectraLink and KIRK telecoms, providing on-site enterprise mobile communication solutions, such as handsets infrastructure, accessories and services using Wi-Fi, DECT and proprietary wireless networks.

The cash deal was agreed in May, when Polycom said it was part of plans to focus on its core unified communications and video collaboration solutions.

Sun Capital plans to work with the management of the newly acquired business to further grow it as a standalone company, it said. The business will keep its US headquarters in Colorado and its European base in Horsens, Denmark.

Polycom’s enterprise wireless voice portfolio made revenues of some USD94m last year.

Super Micro shows off ‘Hyper-Speed’ servers at trade show

Super Micro Computer, Inc. (NASDAQ: SMCI) said it has debuted a new line of ultra high performance “Hyper-Speed” servers at High Frequency Trading World, New York.

Super Micro Computer, Inc. (NASDAQ: SMCI) said it has debuted a new line of ultra high performance “Hyper-Speed” servers at High Frequency Trading World, New York.

These new 2U and 4U/Tower platforms maximised processing power and precisely tuned hardware and firmware to attain up to 30% lower latency over competitive solutions while still maintaining high reliability as a primary design focus.

Built on Super Micro’s X9DAX series dual-processor motherboards and SC829BTQ chassis with best-in-class thermals, Hyper-Speed systems allow the highest performance Intel Xeon E5-2600 series processors (up to 150W TDP) to be tuned for even higher performance and run at peak performance in a dense 2U form factor for colocation installations. Systems architecture is designed for maximum airflow and custom heatsinks provide optimal thermal distribution for mission critical reliability. Additional performance tuning features include adjustable onboard frequencies, voltages and memory latencies as well as firmware optimizations to further lower latency.

Super Micro, a leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology is a premier provider of advanced server building block solutions for data center, cloud computing, enterprise IT, Hadoop/Big Data, HPC and embedded systems worldwide.

Digerati Technologies buys Waste Deep

Digerati Technologies, Inc. (OTCBB: DTGID) (OTC: DTGID) completed its acquisition of Waste Deep, Inc., and its two well established oil field services operating subsidiaries on November 26, 2012.

Digerati Technologies, Inc. (OTCBB: DTGID) (OTC: DTGID) completed its acquisition of Waste Deep, Inc., and its two well established oil field services operating subsidiaries on November 26, 2012.

In connection with the acquisition, Digerati Technologies, Inc. will be changing its name to HD Energy Services, Inc., moving its headquarters to Houston, Texas, and changing the composition of its board of directors to better reflect its current business plan.

John Howell, chairman and CEO, said, “The acquisition of Waste Deep with its operating subsidiaries Hurley Enterprises, Inc. and Dishon Disposal, Inc. provides a great basis for enhancing current shareholders’ value. We are currently in the process of doing PCAOB audits of the operating subsidiaries as part of the due diligence. When we complete these audits, we will file the audits in an 8K in order to provide the basis for filing a registration statement for an American Equity Fund equity line of $100,000,000 to fund capital investments for our operating subsidiaries and future acquisitions. When the company has qualified initial due diligence financial statements, we will provide initial, non-audited, summary information as part of press releases associated with the company.

Digerati Technologies, soon to be renamed HD Energy Services, is a diversified holding company with operating subsidiaries in the oil field services industry and the cloud communications industry. The company’s websites are available at http://hdenergyservices.com and http://www.digerati-inc.com.