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RBS to pay $2.5 billion to end UK government's dividend priority

By Matt Scuffham LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Scotland <RBS.L> has agreed to pay 1.5 billion pounds ($2.5 billion) to cancel an arrangement that gives the government priority over dividends, clearing an obstacle to the lender's eventual privatization.

Metro Bank founder launches new online bank

By Matt Scuffham and Steve Slater LONDON (Reuters) - The founder of British banking newcomer Metro Bank plans to launch an online lender, hoping to take advantage of a sharp decline in the number of customers using branches and challenge established rivals. Anthony Thomson, who stepped down as Metro Bank chairman in 2012, said he would lead the new venture called Atom alongside Mark Mullen, who last month resigned as chief executive of First Direct, the online bank run by HSBC.

UK warns it may not buy electricity from an independent Scotland

By Karolin Schaps LONDON (Reuters) - Britain may not buy electricity from an independent Scottish state if imports from alternative markets are cheaper, the UK government has warned, putting further pressure on Scotland five months before its independence vote. A Scotland split from Britain would have to rely on electricity exports to the United Kingdom to sell excess renewable energy generation because its grid is connected only with England and, to a lesser extent, Northern Ireland.

UK economy basks in manufacturing growth, IMF upgrade

By William Schomberg and Ana Nicolaci da Costa LONDON (Reuters) - Britain got a double boost on Tuesday as its recovery from recession gathered momentum and the International Monetary Fund raised the country's growth forecasts more than for any other major economy. Factories expanded production far more quickly than expected in February, UK statistics office data showed. Separate surveys showed a strong first quarter for companies and a long-awaited pick-up in wages.

UK services firms hit new export high in first quarter: BCC survey

By William Schomberg LONDON (Reuters) - British services firms reported the fastest growth in exports on record in the first quarter of 2014 and manufacturers also got off to a strong start to the year, a survey showed on Tuesday. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said its quarterly economic survey suggested the pace of economic recovery would continue in the short term. But more needed to be done to make sure companies had access to finance in the future, the BCC said in a statement.

Ex-BP boss Hayward could stay Glencore chair: WSJ

(Reuters) - Glencore Xstrata Plc's <GLEN.L> interim chairman, former BP Plc <BP.L> chief executive Tony Hayward, is in the running to take the job permanently, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the situation.

UK's RBS poaches new finance chief from Credit Suisse

By Matt Scuffham and Chris Vellacott LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Scotland <RBS.L> has poached Credit Suisse's <CSGN.VX> Ewen Stevenson for its new finance director, to help restore the health of the part-nationalized bank which lost 8.2 billion pounds last year. Stevenson was co-head of investment banking for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Credit Suisse and has never been a finance director before. His other challenge at RBS will be to prepare it for a stock market return after depending on state handouts.

Tesco finance director set to resign: report

LONDON (Reuters) - Tesco <TSCO.L> finance director Laurie McIlwee is set to resign as early as next week, days before Britain's biggest retailer is expected to announce another sharp decline in profitability, the Financial Times reported. McIlwee became the focus of investor disquiet in October after Tesco shocked investors by reporting a collapse in profits at its central European unit, which he had failed to signal.

Royal Bank of Scotland to shut 44 branches

By Aashika Jain (Reuters) - Part-nationalized Royal Bank of Scotland <RBS.L> said on Wednesday it will close 44 branches, of which 14 are classed as "Last Banks in Town", in the UK and Scotland. An RBS spokesperson said there has been a 30 percent drop in branch transactions since 2010 as banking has changed significantly over the last few years as more and more customers are banking where and when it is convenient for them.

Did Osborne apply pressure in Lloyds branches sale, UK lawmakers ask

By Huw Jones LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's parliamentary treasury committee has asked finance minister George Osborne whether he or colleagues put undue pressure on Co-operative Group <42TE.L> or Lloyds <LLOY.L> Banking Group over the sale of more than 600 Lloyds branches.
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