Tuesday's evening business bulletin

Takeovers of UK firms by companies soar in second quarter; Film studio business Pinewood Shepperton which helped bring Harry Potter to the big screen warns of threat to revenues this year; Supermarket chain Asda hires former Marks & Spencer boss.

Takeovers of UK firms by foreign companies soared to a record £49bn in the second quarter of the year , official figures showed today.

The surge in deals - led by private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts’ £11bn acquisition of high street giant Alliance Boots - compares with a spend of just £5.4 billion in the first three months of 2007, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Acquisitions abroad by UK companies quadrupled to £16.9bn, after a major US deal from drugs firm AstraZeneca and mobile phone behemoth Vodafone buying a majority stake in Indian company Hutchison Essar.

But analysts said the frenzy of deals in April, May and June could represent a high watermark for takeover activity amid the recent crunch in global credit markets as more cautious lenders hike borrowing costs and merger activity stalls.

Film studio business Pinewood Shepperton today warned that further delays to major productions could threaten revenues this year.

The company, which has hosted the production of blockbusters such as The Bourne Ultimatum and Harry Potter and the Order of the

Phoenix this year, told the City in June year-on-year revenues would be flat due to films entering production later than expected.

But Buckinghamshire-based Pinewood today said that more delays since then would result in falling revenues in 2007, unless deferred productions could be replaced.

Shares in the firm were 2% lower as the warning overshadowed a 39% rise in pre-tax profits to £2.9m in the first half of the year.

The firm said there was "increasing interest“ in film production activity in the UK following the January introduction of a new film tax credit to lure international film-makers back to the UK.

Supermarket Asda has hired former Marks & Spencer retail boss Anthony Thompson to head its George fashion range.

Mr Thompson starts as managing director of the range on September 17, replacing Angela Spindler, who left Walmart-owned Asda two months ago.

Woolworths’ £29m takeover of book wholesaler Bertram has been formally cleared by competition watchdogs. Woolies, which has spent around £1.8m in fees and costs relating to the inquiry, said it was pleased with the Competition Commission’s decision.

The pound at 5pm was US$2.0107 compared to US$2.0175 at the previous close while The euro at 5pm was £0.6767 compared to £0.6747 at the previous close.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer