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Barclays shares have held up well this morning after news this weekend that it is considering merging with ABN Amro – a deal long-coveted by some of Barclays’ senior executives. However, you only have to think about the mess Barclays made of its last big deal, the Woolwich acquisition, to be a little worried. Barclays chief executive John Varley was behind that deal (integration is just beginning, seven years later) and it was a walk in the polders compared with an ABN deal.

Anyway, Barclays will face competition from other European banks, including ING and BNP, if indeed ABN’s management is up for a deal at all. Barclays’ statement this morning, rather absurdly, says simply that a statement will be made before tomorrow morning. We could hear more this afternoon. As they explain in more detail on FT Alphaville, opinions are divided on the merit of a Barclays-ABN deal. Man Group’s analysts think the synergies would be small because the overlaps are quite small. But Panmures and Dresdner are more enthusiastic.

Tui and First Choice Holidays have confirmed they are to merge their tour operating businesses to create Europe’s largest tour operator. The deal comes less than a month after MyTravel and Thomas Cook agreed to merge their operations and if completed would see Europe’s four leading tour operators consolidate into two.

Shares in Laird rose 10 per cent after the group announced the planned sale of its Security Systems division for £242.5m in cash to Greg Hutchings’s Lupus Capital and reported record annual profits. The company said it would return £100m of the proceeds to shareholders by way of a special dividend.

Communisis, the financial printer whose shares have fallen about a quarter in the last month, says its chairman, Mike Smith, plans to retire as soon as a successor is found. The firm has just changed its chief executive, who told us the other day the company faced a year or two of transition.

Carlyle, the private equity group, has agreed to buy Freeport for 410p a share in cash valuing the struggling European factory-outlet operator at £155.3m.

Otherwise, we have a bunch of results today. Wolseley’s first-half figures look less bad than expected, oil rig maker Abbot Group continues to thrive for obvious reasons, Kier’s interims looks strong, Regus is also strong and UTV looks solid enough.

And hello, what this? Another gamekeeper turned poacher, or what the French more elegantly call pantouflage? The former head of competition and utility regulation at the DTI, Catherine Bell, is joining the board of United Utilities.

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