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December 1: Prudential has confirmed it is buying out the minority investors in Egg. It will pay 118p a share for the 21 per cent it doesn’t already own. That’s much less than the 160p at which the online bank floated in 2000 but it is also quite a lot more than some analysts thought Pru ought to offer, given the deteriorating credit outlook. Egg shares are up 12 per cent. Find the full details and terms here.

Punch has also confirmed that it is to become Britain’s biggest pub landlord after winning the fierce auction for Spirit Group in a deal which values the privately-owned pub estate at £2.68bn. In winning the auction, Punch has outbid Robert Tchenguiz, the property investor who was in the lead next week. It has also given itself a huge financial and management challenge, as Lex argues online today.

United Utilities said John Roberts, chief executive, would retire at the end of March of next year, aged 60. He will be replaced by Philip Green, formerly chief executive of Dutch container shipping group Royal P&O Nedlloyd prior to its acquisition by AP Moeller-Maersk AS earlier this year. Since taking over in 1999, United Utilities shares have under-performed the sector by almost 20 per cent but the total return, taking into account share price growth and dividends reinvested, is in line with the sector. The water and electricity distributor also reported a better-than-expected 20 per cent rise in interim profits. It is also selling Your Communications, its loss-making telecommunications business, and will book a net impairment charge of £99m relating to the unit, which supplies telephony services to small business and the public sector in the Midlands and the north of England.

The oil price-fuelled boom in the Middle East has helped lift third quarter profits at HSBC. Bad debts in UK retail banking, a slowdown among smaller businesses and rising costs in investment banking are the main weaker spots on an otherwise solid update. Read the group’s trading update and listen to a recording of today’s conference call.

The sales decline at MFI Furniture slowed. The group has a new chief executive, Matthew Ingle. There are some very large short positions in this stock, incidentally.

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