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Siona Jenkins

Siona Jenkins

Former Cairene; FT Middle east news editor. Views my own.

Articles by Siona Jenkins

Opening Quote: Whitbread: wake up and smell not much more coffee

October 24, 2017

Whitbread: wake up and smell not much more coffee. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Is Whitbread, owner of Costa Coffee and Premier Inns, worth more than the sum of its parts? Analysts’ views seem to depend on their most likely caffeine delivery method.According to the Americano-chugging Americanos at Citi, the answer is no. In fact, they don’t seem to think a £2.20 Costa Americano is worth the sum of its parts. Last month, they “debunked the coffee growth myth”, warned that expansion would grind to a halt for Costa, Caffe Nero and Starbucks, and double downgraded Whitbread from “buy” to “sell”. They may have a point: £2.20 for “espresso, lengthened with hot water… straight up or add a

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Opening Quote: Petra – (a bit of) what’s mine is yours

October 23, 2017

Petra – (a bit of) what’s mine is yours. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. How much of a country’s essential industry should be owned by the government? In the UK, it is increasingly fashionable – notably among those with no memory of 1970s nationalised industries or 1970s fashions – to suggest 100 per cent. And not just in the case of Southern Rail. Or north of Watford. Nowadays, you’re as likely to hear water privatisation denounced as a travesty by an FT leader writer as a lefty leader.In France, government stakes can still be 20 per cent – which, if you tinker with the voting rights, is usually enough to prevent anything too commercial going on.But Tanzania, it seems, is positioned

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Opening Quote: Daimler profits down

October 20, 2017

Daimler profits down. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Daimler profits fell in the third quarter, owing to a car recall, upgrades for existing diesel vehicles and higher expenses on new technologies.The parent of Mercedes-Benz reported €3.46bn in operating earnings, “significantly below” the €4.04bn a year ago but ahead of forecasts at €3.25bn.The group posted record unit sales and revenue – up 6 per cent to €40.8bn – but earnings fell from a year ago due to a €230m charge to pay for a car recall and a €223m charge for upgrades to existing vehicles, as Daimler fights against measures to ban older diesel cars from entering a number of European cities.The German company also said it is paying more for “new technologies and

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Opening Quote: Unilever is “Connected 3 Growth”

October 19, 2017

Unilever is “Connected 3 Growth”. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Unilever adheres to the 1990s rule of corporate strategy and parental text messages: try to use numbers for words, because that makes you appear modern, vital and dare one say ‘with it’. It’s ‘snazzy’. Hence, Unilever’s latest strategy is not called “Connected for Growth”, but “Connected 4 Growth”. Or “C4G”. Can U C what they did there?It’s not the only multinational down with the kids. T-Mobile first launched as One 2 One. Or was that The Spice Girls? Midlands Mobile Phones only took off after it offered Phones 4 U. It must have been the same story for Midlands Injury Lawyers. In fact, only yesterday, Reckitt Benckiser

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Opening Quote: Aramco exposes Gulf in governance rhetoric

October 16, 2017

Aramco exposes Gulf in governance rhetoric. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. News that Saudi Aramco, the Gulf state’s $1tn oil company, may postpone plans for an international listing of its shares – and instead sell a stake to sovereign wealth funds – is a tad embarrassing for Theresa May.It not only makes her April trip to lobby the Saudi’s for a London listing – taking stock exchange boss Xavier Rolet – look like a waste of time. It also suggests she may have compromised her position as First Lord of the Treasury and Grand Upholder of the Corporate Governance Standards for nothing.Having pledged last year that she would introduce reforms “establishing the best corporate governance of

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Opening Quote: Ashmore boosted by surge in emerging market interest

October 13, 2017

Ashmore boosted by surge in emerging market interest. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Ashmore, the FTSE-250 listed asset manager, attracted inflows of $2.3bn in its latest fiscal period as investors flocked to emerging markets despite geopolitical uncertainty.The fund house, which specialises in emerging market debt, saw its assets under management increase 10.7 per cent to $65bn during the three months to September 30 as positive investment performance boosted growth. The results mark its third consecutive quarter of inflows following two years of net withdrawals.“Investors are increasingly focusing on emerging markets and it is encouraging to see strong inflows this quarter,” said Mark Coombs, chief executive. “Ashmore’s

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Opening Quote: Sky revenues higher as shares decline

October 12, 2017

Sky revenues higher as shares decline. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. What can you buy for £10.75 a share, or £11.7bn, in the world of UK TV stations? Possibly not Sky plc, judging by its share price movement since Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox had its bid for the pay-TV company referred to competition regulators. From the point at which a full investigation became inevitable to this week’s news that it will focus on Mr Murdoch’s ability to influence Sky News and “the political agenda”, the shares have fallen 8 per cent, to £9.16 – taking them 15 per cent below the offer price.All this time, Sky shareholders have been in limbo – and the final verdict of the Competition & Markets

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Opening Quote: Jupiter’s flows prove it doesn’t need stars

October 11, 2017

Jupiter’s flows prove it doesn’t need stars. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Jupiter, the fund management company, doesn’t let sentiment get in the way of pragmatic investment calls. It describes itself as a “high conviction active asset manager”. How else would 81 per cent of its investments have managed to beat the median performer after fees, over the last three years? And why else would it have attracted £3.6bn of net inflows in the first half – to which that median-beating performance added another £3bn?So it is little wonder that the company went with its conviction – and felt no compunction – in withdrawing nearly £300m from star fund manager Neil Woodford, after backing him for

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Opening Quote: Robert Walters shrugs off Brexit knock

October 10, 2017

Robert Walters shrugs off Brexit knock. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Robert Walters, the London-listed recruiter, reported a record performance in its the latest quarter and said its full-year profits would beat market expectations, shaking off Brexit-related jitters to post strong UK revenues.Net fee income at the staffing group jumped to £90.7m in the three months to the end of September, from £74.4m over same period in 2016. On a constant-currency basis, the increase was 21 per cent.Brexit-related uncertainty had knocked UK hiring at Robert Walters – and rivals such as PageGroup and Hays – in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum. However, net fee income in the UK was up 15 per cent in the third quarter to

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Opening Quote: Trinity Mirror deal faces age old problem

October 9, 2017

Trinity Mirror deal faces age old problem. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Trinity Mirror appears to be finding there is one slight problem with trying to acquire the newspaper of choice for Britain’s embittered pensioners: Britain’s soon-to-be embittered pensioners. According to reports in the Telegraph over the weekend, a £130m deal to combine the Daily Mirror with Richard Desmond’s Daily Express is now facing opposition from pension trustees “on both sides of the deal”.Under the proposed terms, Trinity Mirror will pay Mr Desmond for his Express newspapers and other Northern & Shell “assets” in cash and shares, and he will then make a one-off payment to top-up the Express pension

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Opening Quote: EasyJet bucks the budget airline trend

October 6, 2017

EasyJet bucks the budget airline trend. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. EasyJet is bucking a grim environment for budget airlines, stating on Friday that its profits are likely to be at the upper end of the range it had previously signalled.Despite a £100m currency hit in the wake of the Brexit referendum, profits for the year ending in September are expected to be between £405m and £410m, it said, after posting record passenger numbers over the summer.That is still a fall from the £495m recorded in 2016, and down from £686m in 2015, but it forms a bright contrast to the collapse of Monarch Airlines and a fiasco over flight cancellations by Ryanair.Over the three months to the end of September, easyJet flew 24.1m

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Opening Quote: DFS – sofa, so predictable

October 5, 2017

DFS – sofa, so predictable. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. DFS, the soft furnisher, has issued its full-year results this morning, following a profit warning in August. So on behalf of the Union of Predictable Financial Journalists and Sub Editors (London SE branch), I feel a duty to warn you of such imminent puns as: “Sofa, so bad”; “Furniture group sat on its backside”; “[Insert preferred scapegoat] knocks stuffing out of DFS”; and “A*** falls out of sofa-maker’s shares.” Given it is nearly 8am, I fear I may be too late (but email me your own favourites anyway, as I’ll probably have to write another whole column on this later today).However, given that much of the bad news was known,

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Opening Quote: Tesco’s “little better” makes for better days

October 4, 2017

Tesco’s “little better” makes for better days. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Old Tesco and New Tesco have both been on display this week. But, unlike certain packs of supermarket chicken, the former is thankfully well past its sell by date.Yesterday, a court was told how, under previous management, senior staff had resigned from the retail group because they felt so “compromised” about being asked to “misreport” profits. A trial of three executives – who deny any wrongdoing – has heard of frantic attempts to deal with a growing hole in Tesco’s accounts back in 2014, which was caused by the practice of illegitimately “pulling forward” unearned future income.This morning, however,

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Opening Quote: Taxi for Uber’s UK boss!

October 3, 2017

Taxi for Uber’s UK boss! FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Have you ever dreaded a meeting so much that you wished you could just resign instead and not have to go? This is not the reason why Uber’s UK boss has quit, ahead of the taxi app’s crunch meeting with London’s transport regulators later today. But Jo Bertram, who resigned a few weeks ago to seek new challenges, might recognise the feeling. And feel the relief.She will now not have to accompany Uber’s new chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi as he tries to persuade Transport for London boss Mike Brown that the US group can change and become a “fit and proper operator” – avoiding the loss of its operating license in the capital.As head

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Opening Quote: Monarch unseated

October 2, 2017

Monarch unseated. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. How to run a short-haul airline in Europe, option 1: offer a reliable service to third-party tour operators, survive the financial crisis, switch focus to leisure travel, receive investment from your owners, lose business because of Middle Eastern security fears outside your control, face increased competition from rivals, make big losses.How to run a short-haul airline in Europe, option 2: offer a patchy service to direct booking passengers where up to 1 in 5 flights is late, survive the financial crisis, renew focus on misery travel, cut costs to the absolute minimum, lose business because of staffing under your control, fail to tell

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Opening Quote: Carillon reduces revenue outlook

September 29, 2017

Carillon reduces revenue outlook . FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Construction and outsourcing group Carillion on Friday reduced its full-year revenue outlook after posting what it referred to as a “disappointing” slate of first-half results.Carillion now expects revenues this year to be £4.6bn – £4.8bn, down from £4.8bn – £5bn. Analysts had been forecasting revenues of £4.83bn, according to a FactSet survey. The group will also take a further £200m provision for support services contracts, which it reckons will have a “minimal” impact on cash.Weak cash flow and failure to replace completed contracts have caused the company’s debt pile to rise, climbing from £42m at the start of the

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Opening Quote: Imperial Brands hails repeat business

September 28, 2017

Imperial Brands hails repeat business. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Imperial Brands – provider of such exquisite smoking experiences as Gauloises, JPS and Lambert & Butler King Size – may soon have a chance to prove the doubters wrong: by selling non-addictive cigarettes purely for their gorgeous tobacco-ey taste. In July, US regulators announced that they were planning to reduce the level of nicotine in a pack of 20 to ‘non-addictive levels’.Scott Gottlieb, US Food and Drug Administration commissioner said:“Because nicotine lives at the core of both the problem and the solution to the question of addiction, addressing the addictive levels of nicotine in combustible cigarettes must be

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Opening Quote: Uber hopes to carry on cabby-ing

September 27, 2017

Uber hopes to carry on cabby-ing. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Running a taxi business never used to so difficult. Noddy managed it, for goodness sake. So, too, Sid James in Carry on Cabby. Even Larry David, the misanthropic anti-hero of sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm, once drove passengers for a living. But the recent travails of taxi-hailing service Uber in Britain suggest none would last in the industry today – given all the heightened political, regulatory and wider social scrutiny. In fact, NJD Cabs would probably have its licence revoked before it could even pick up Big Ears. Or enter into a dispute with Big Ears*.Anyway, later today, all eyes will again be on Uber, as the

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Opening Quote: Thomas Cook looks to a bright future

September 26, 2017

Thomas Cook looks to a bright future. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. When you’re trying to position yourself as a digital travel agency for the 21st century, it’s important to remember the tight orangey-brown swimming trunks rule: the 1970s is never a good look. Sadly, Thomas Cook has not been able to avoid it. Its launch of a wizzy new online feature allowing holidaymakers to select the exact location and view from their hotel room (think: overlooking sea, nowhere near disco) has been somewhat overshadowed by the first UK pilots’ strike for 40 odd years (think: Luton departure lounge, next to crying baby).This morning, though, Thomas Cook followed textbook procedure when faced with

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Opening Quote: All going swimmingly for water group Pennon

September 25, 2017

All going swimmingly for water group Pennon. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. FT leader writers will be spitting out their Evian: privatised water company Pennon has just announced that all is going swimmingly, as usual.Only last week, the newspaper listed everything that is wrong with Britain’s privately owned water industry:“Prices have risen faster than inflation. The regulator has been ineffective at imposing efficiency improvements… the requirement to increase efficiency by 1 per cent a year is unconscionably slack. … The nine English water companies have been endlessly restructured. Six have been taken off the stock market and are now in the hands of international private equity

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Opening Quote: Saga takes a dip

September 22, 2017

Saga takes a dip. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Saga, the travel and insurance business for the over-50s, has reported a dip in pre-tax profits over the first half of 2017.The company, which is best-known for its cruise ship holidays, said profits before tax were £103m for the six months to July 2017, down 6.3 per cent on the same period last year. Saga said the decline was due to refinancing and net fair value losses on derivatives.In January, Saga signalled a major expansion of its travel business, announcing ambitious new profit targets and the purchase of a new cruise ship, the Spirit of Discovery, due to arrive in 2019.Chief executive officer Lance Batchelor said strong pre-sales for cruise ship holidays had

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Opening Quote: Kingfisher’s transformation is not so fluent

September 20, 2017

Kingfisher’s transformation is not so fluent. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Kingfisher, the Anglo-French DIY retailer has just reported half year results, so this morning’s Opening Quote is brought to readers in both countries by Google Translate and distant memories of the old Punch magazine column Let’s Parler Franglais.Apres un recent trading update that was more zut alors than très bien, ce n’est pas un surprise that Kingfisher’s half year numbers look un peu disappointing. Dans les trois mois jusqu’à July 31, like-pour-like-sales at B et Q sont allés the way of those at les chains Francais Castorama and Brico Dépôt: tous négatifs. Like-pour-like sales dans the quarter en France

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Opening Quote: Ocado grows as it waits for more deals

September 19, 2017

Ocado grows as it waits for more deals. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Online supermarket Ocado can deliver groceries within a one-hour time slot of your choosing. It’s just the delivery of a big deal for its technology that requires a two-to-three year window. But it seems that more investors are willing to pay 192 times earnings for its shares – and wait in a bit longer. Having been the second most borrowed stock by speculators hoping to profit from a falling prices, Ocado has been the subject of improved sentiment – and buying – since the summer, when it announced a new European client for its software, if not its automated warehouse system.So does it matter that this morning’s

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Opening Quote: Petra’s debt takes sparkle off record production

September 18, 2017

Petra’s debt takes sparkle off record production. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Petra Diamonds has been aware of the political risk of doing business in Tanzania for some time. But have its shareholders? Fellow miner Acacia had been locked in dispute with President John Magufuli’s government for more than six months before Petra had one of its diamond exports blocked last week, and its personnel questioned. This evidently came as a shock to some, though: Petra’s shares fell 24 per cent on the news, taking their 2017 decline to nearly 50 per cent.Shareholders will therefore have been hoping for some reassurance in this morning’s full-year results – especially given Petra’s debt levels .

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Opening Quote: JD Wetherspoon reaps strong summer harvest

September 15, 2017

JD Wetherspoon reaps strong summer harvest. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. JD Wetherspoon posted a rise in its annual profits and sales, helped by a “very strong” summer holiday season.Like-for-like sales, a key industry metric, climbed 4 per cent in the fiscal year to July 30, narrowly beating analyst expectations of 3.9 per cent.Overall the pub operator’s revenues climbed to £1.66bn, from £1.6bn, with pre-tax profits rising 15.6 per cent to £76.4m. Excluding exceptional items, profits would have been £102.8m. Gains were sharpened by an extra week in the fiscal year.In contrast to rival Greene King, which had said its late summer was weighed down by bad weather, Wetherspoons said that it had an upbeat season, and that

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Opening Quote: And, ladies and gentlemen, for my Next trick…

September 14, 2017

And, ladies and gentlemen, for my Next trick… FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Next chief executive Simon Wolfson, like his high street clothing chain, cannot be accused of overselling things of late. “I’m marginally less pessimistic than I was three months ago” was his cheery sales pitch in August, after a surprisingly good 11 per cent rise in digital sales offset an accelerating decline on the high street.This morning, though, he was practically giving it the jazz hands: “our prospects going forward appear somewhat less challenging than they did six months ago”.If anything, he was underselling it – because trading had improved so much in the second quarter that Next had to “modestly

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Opening Quote: Bet you Ladbrokes and Wm Hill won’t like this…

September 13, 2017

Bet you Ladbrokes and Wm Hill won’t like this… FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Shares in Ladbrokes Coral and William Hill will start to fall in approximately 3 minutes time… actually probably nearer 1 minute by the time you’ve finished reading this. Sadly, this does not indicate that Opening Quote has mastered the kind of stock market time travel alluded to by that daft Lombard fellow the other week. Nor does it represent the first in a series of suspiciously short-notice shorting opportunities. No, it is merely a prediction based on an FT news story published four hours ago – revealing the likelihood of at least a £150m hit to bookmakers’ revenues from a government clampdown on fixed

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Opening Quote: Ill wind blows some good for Ashtead

September 12, 2017

Ill wind blows some good for Ashtead. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Ashtead is one of many US-focused companies no doubt relieved that Hurricane Irma veered away from Miami at the last moment yesterday. But, unlike the insurers and real estate groups, for which the news meant only avoidance of losses, the FTSE 100 construction equipment group can hope for later gains.According to a Jefferies analyst quoted in news reports, Ashtead’s Sunbelt equipment hire business could generate $50m in rental revenues from rebuilding work and flood defence spending following the earlier Hurricane Harvey, plus the much needed Hurricane Irma clean-up operation. “Ashtead has 84 equipment branches in

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Opening Quote: ABF finds its sweet spot

September 11, 2017

ABF finds its sweet spot. FT Opening Quote, with commentary by Matthew Vincent, is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Associated British Foods has arguably the perfect recipe for our times. There is a lot to be said for some cheap and cheerful new clothes, a nice cup of tea, plenty of sugar and a hot buttered crumpet when inflation keeps outstripping wage growth, consumers are abandoning the high street, the prime minister has to deny she’s a robot live on Radio 4’s Test Match Special, and Tony Blair – of all people – is starting to sound like the most rational politician on Brexit.So this morning’s news of even higher than forecast operating profit from the FTSE 100 owner of Primark, Twinings, Silver Spoon and Sunblest provided some much-needed

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Opening Quote: Trinity Mirror in talks to buy Express Newspapers

September 8, 2017

Trinity Mirror in talks to buy Express Newspapers. FT Opening Quote is your early Square Mile briefing. You can sign up for the full newsletter here. Trinity Mirror, the parent company of the Daily and Sunday Mirror, is in talks to acquire 100 per cent of Express Newspapers from owner Richard Desmond in a deal which, if completed, would represent the biggest shake up to the UK newspaper industry for over a decade.After months of talks aimed at securing a minority stake in its rival newspaper group, Trinity Mirror is now preparing to buy all of the business and its newspaper and magazine assets which include the Daily and Sunday Express, the Daily and Sunday Star and magazines including OK.Details of any price are not known at this stage but Mr Desmond has sought more than £100m for the

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