February 1: Saudi prince floats hotels investment

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February 1: Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, whose investments include large stakes in Citigroup and News Corp, is floating his Kingdom Hotel Investments business simultaneously in London and Dubai. The business could be worth $2bn and would probably be the largest Middle Eastern company to float on the LSE. We expect many more to follow this year and it is interesting, if not hugely surprising, that they should choose London over New York. The main listing will be in Dubai, with global depository shares listed on the LSE. The banks on the IPO are Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank. Kingdom owns interests in 26 properties in 13 countries, including 15 operating hotels and resorts and 11 hotels and resorts currently under construction or in the initial stages of development.

Rumours that Lloyds TSB is in receipt of, or about to receive, a takeover bid have circulated all week. However, they were given fresh impetus this morning by a story in the Guardian’s market report. This reported rumours that BBVA of Spain might be stalking Lloyds, although it didn’t push the line very hard. The stock is up just over 6 per cent. We are looking into it, of course, but we, too, are very sceptical.

BSkyB beat profit forecasts for the first half as it signed up more subscribers than expected and the rate of customer churn declined. In the six months to December 31 pre-tax profits rose 14 per cent to £390m as revenues increased by 9 per cent to £2.14bn.

Compass has announced the conclusion of a three-month investigation by Freshfields and Ernst & Young into allegations about UN contracts. The report acknowledges there had been “serious irregularities” but attaches blame to “a few individuals within ESS”, one of its subsidiaries. It adds that there is “no reason to believe that these issues extend beyond these individuals to other parts of ESS or to the wider Compass Group”. Readers will know that Salamander Davoudi has followed this story extremely closely so can expect some good stuff from her tomorrow.

We are also looking for a way back into the Cable and Wireless story from yesterday. I’m extremely interested in what Richard Lapthorne said about the non-recurring items the company disclosed.

And we might look more closely at WPP’s difficulties in Italy, which Gary Silverman wrote about in this morning’s paper.

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